executors and administrators. An executor is the person designated in the will of a deceased person to carry out the provisions of the will. An administrator is the person appointed by a probate court to perform the identical functions if the will does not name any executors or if those who were named executors are not capable of performing the function or are dead. An administrator is also appointed in the case of the death without a will (intestate) of any person who owns property. Those chosen representatives collect the assets and pay the debts of the estate and then distribute what remains to those who are entitled by provisions of the will or by law. To allow performance of these duties the title to the personal property passes to the executor or administrator, rather than to the beneficiaries. The administrator derives his title from the court through his letters of administration. The executor's source of title is the will itself. Besides being the defendants in any suits brought against the estate, the representatives are also authorized to bring actions to compensate the estate for damage suffered before or after death. Administration is not necessary if the heirs, the creditors of the estate, and all others interested in the estate agree to the settlement of debts and the distribution of the property. Under modern statutes, priority of right to be administrator depends largely on nearness of relation to the deceased. Where no relative applies for papers of administration, creditors, public administrators, or suitable strangers may be appointed administrator. One is ineligible to act as an administrator by reason of being an infant, insane, or lacking ordinary integrity. Illiteracy, lack of business experience, immorality, or adverse interests are not disqualifications. The executor or administrator must, in some states, post a bond for honest and faithful discharge of his duties. After he has paid the legacies and otherwise followed the directions of the will so far as legally possible, the court will discharge him if his accounting is correct and he has shown himself to have acted honestly and in good faith; otherwise his bond may be forfeited, and he is made liable to suit.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.