What is the Difference Between an Executor and an Administrator?

Last updated on: April 21, 2023

When an individual dies and they haven’t transferred their property through a Trust, joint ownership with a right of survivorship, or direct payments to beneficiaries (like insurance policies or retirement accounts), then the property in Texas will go through the probate process for distribution. A court-appointed personal representative would become responsible for settling the deceased’s affairs and probate assets they may have. This representative can be either an executor or an administrator, both of whom are considered personal representatives and have comparable duties. 

The duties of the personal representative include collecting and doing an inventory of the decedent’s assets, managing them during the administration process, paying the debts owed to creditors and tax collectors, and finally distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

When you become the executor of an estate, it’s recommended to seek the assistance of a Houston probate attorney. The responsibilities that come with managing an estate can be overwhelming. A skilled lawyer may be able to help you understand the probate process and help you settle an estate without a will. Call the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation. 

Differences Between an Executor and an Administrator

Whether someone is an executor or administrator is determined by whether they were named in a valid will. The roles of executors and administrators both involve managing the estate and assets of a deceased person, and they generally share the same rights and responsibilities.

Executor

An executor is named in a last will and testament to administer the estate of the deceased. Their primary responsibility is to safeguard the estate and distribute it to the rightful heirs in accordance with the will. 

This can involve several tasks, such as identifying and preserving the assets of the decedent, settling outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the estate as per the terms of the will. In cases where the estate cannot be fully distributed according to the will, the executor must identify the existing heirs and distribute the remaining assets.

While the process may be straightforward for simple estates and wills, it can be quite complex for others. An executor may need to divide property or locate missing assets, sell off assets to pay debts or taxes or deal with challenges to the will. The most significant challenge, however, is ensuring that the estate is distributed in accordance with the will especially if the will is complicated or sets conditions for the heirs.

Executors are entitled to receive compensation for their work, which is usually specified in the will. In the absence of any such provisions, state law may provide for statutorily approved rates of compensation.

Administrator

An administrator is responsible for managing the assets of a deceased person and ensuring that they are distributed to the rightful heirs. The two roles – an executor and an administrator – bear a critical distinction. When an individual passes away without a will, also referred to as dying intestate, the probate court designates an administrator, given that no executor can be identified without a will. 

An administrator is responsible for a range of duties, such as assembling the estate’s assets, settling outstanding debts, and equitably dispensing the remaining assets among the lawful beneficiaries. However, due to the lack of a will to adhere, an administrator’s actions must be guided by statutory regulations. 

Their primary responsibility is to locate any potential heirs, which can be challenging since some may not know that their relative has passed away or may not have been in contact. After identifying potential heirs, the administrator must ascertain their lawful entitlement to the estate and allocate the assets accordingly. The administrator also bears the responsibility of defending any challenges to the inheritance. 

Similar to an executor, the administrator is entitled to receive reasonable compensation for their services, but the payment scheme varies across different states. 

Requirements to Become an Executor or Administrator in Texas

Every state has regulations that restrict who is eligible to serve as the executor of an estate, as this role involves a significant amount of legal responsibility. In Texas, an individual must meet the following criteria to be qualified as an executor:

  1. Must be at least 18 years old.
  2. Must be of sound mind, which means that the court does not have any reason to believe that the executor is mentally incapacitated.
  3. Must be a resident of the United States.
  4. Cannot have been convicted of a felony unless pardoned and/or all civil rights have been restored.

Additionally, the court has the authority to declare an individual unsuitable to serve as an executor based on the unique facts and circumstances of the case.

Individuals who are incapacitated, convicted felons, nonresidents of Texas without a designated resident agent for legal proceedings related to the estate, corporations without a designated agent in Texas, or individuals deemed unsuitable by the court are ineligible for appointment as administrators of the estate.

Are there Restrictions on Becoming an Out-of-State Executor? 

Executors residing outside of Texas are not legally prohibited from serving as estate executors. However, it is advisable for an executor to reside in close proximity to the estate due to the practical considerations of handling legal and financial affairs in-person, which may extend over a period of time. If the executor does not reside in Texas, they must designate an in-state agent who can accept legal documents on behalf of the estate.

Speak to an Experienced Texas Probate Attorney Today

When a person falls ill or dies unexpectedly, it can be extremely upsetting for the entire family. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is already a difficult task and managing their affairs can make it more challenging. However, by creating a comprehensive estate plan, you can alleviate the burden on your family and ensure that your affairs are handled smoothly and accurately, minimizing the stress and uncertainty that they might otherwise face.

If you are the executor of an estate, it is also important to seek the help of an experienced probate lawyer in Texas. A skilled attorney may be able to help you through the probate process and provide the legal advice you may need. Contact the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation. 

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