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Estate Executor vs. Estate Administrator

The major difference between an Estate Executor, otherwise known as Personal Representative, and an Estate Administrator is that the former is personally chosen by the deceased in their will, while the latter is appointed by the court if the deceased has died intestate (without a will). Whether you are named for either role, you will benefit from the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. 

If you reside in Southeastern Massachusetts or on Cape Cod, the knowledgeable lawyers at Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. are ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties responsibly and with as little stress as possible. Although the duties of a Personal Representative and an Estate Administrator are basically the same, and both must satisfy certain legal requirements, the Estate Administrator’s actions are restricted by state Intestate Succession Act, whereas the Representative’s are based on the wishes of the deceased.

Similarities Between the Duties of the Personal Representative and the Estate Administrator

Both the Administrator and Representative are subject to the jurisdiction of the Probate Court. Both are authorized and expected to:

  • Notify beneficiaries and heirs of the decedent’s passing
  • Open a bank account for the estate
  • Handle probate matters
  • Inventory the deceased’s assets
  • Pay the deceased’s taxes and other outstanding bills
  • Sell properties as necessary
  • Distribute remaining assets to designated beneficiaries
  • Close the estate 

Both personal representatives and estate administrators typically receive “reasonable compensation” for their services unless they are also beneficiaries.

Differences Between the Options of the Representative and the Administrator

The next to last item on the above list highlights where the duties of the two differ. The Personal Representative follows the pre-established wishes of the deceased in terms of distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries named in the will. The Estate Administrator, on the other hand, follows the directives of the Massachusetts Intestate Succession Act. Though in some cases, the beneficiaries may be the same in some cases, in others, they may be entirely different. 

This is because the Intestate Succession Act follows prioritizes closest relatives as: spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and then cousins or other relatives. Note that there is no place for dear friends on this list, nor does the Intestate Succession Act make room for personal preferences of the deceased, favorable or unfavorable. So, if the deceased has left no will, it is possible that their estate will go to an estranged relative or to a distant cousin the deceased has never met.

Essentially, even if the person the court appoints as Estate Administrator is the individual the deceased might have chosen as  if they had created a will, as Administrator they will be bound to follow the succession restrictions imposed by the court rather than known wishes of the deceased.

Both Personal Representatives and Administrators Are Fiduciaries

What this means is that both are legally responsible to acting in the best interests of the estate and both will be held accountable by the probate court. Moreover, beneficiaries are entitled to an accounting of the estate from either. 

No matter what their title, Administrators and Representatives must, according to the laws of Massachusetts,  have bonds to ensure their trustworthy behavior in their roles. These bonds guarantee that all the estate debts will be satisfied and that the remaining assets will be properly distributed to the appropriate heirs.

Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys Today 

Whether you have been named Personal Representative in a will or designated an Estate Administrator by a Massachusetts court, working with one of our skilled attorneys can be invaluable. Either role may be more time-consuming than you expect and may involve unexpected complications (e.g. a contested will or a family dust-up). Likely, you will have questions about how best to proceed. Our dedicated lawyers are here to help. Contact us now so we can help you get started.