Personal Representatives and Executors 101

Slide1Navigating the terminology of wills and trusts can get complicated. Take the terms personal representative and executor, for example. Many people use them interchangeably, but strictly speaking, they’re not. Wyoming law, for instance, says the term “‘Personal representative’ includes executor and administrator.” Great, but what do “executor” and “administrator” mean? Well, the Wyoming code defines those words as well:

“‘Executor’ means any person appointed by the court to administer the estate of a testate decedent.”

“‘Administrator’ means any person appointed by the court to administer an intestate estate.”

As you can see, which term we use depends on whether the deceased died testate–with a will–or intestate–without a will. Typically, the maker of the will–the testator–will name an executor in the will. In such cases, the court will almost always agree and appoint that person to be the executor, though in some circumstances the court may do otherwise.

The executor exercises authority granted or defined in the will. That authority may be greater or lesser than any powers provided by statute, depending on the objectives of the testator. In other words, as a testator, you want to be sure you grant your executor the authority necessary to do what you want him or her to do.

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