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Who is Executor Where There’s No Will?

Photo of casket being carried to a hearse. Who is executor where there's no will?

When someone dies without a will, it can be difficult to know who is responsible for carrying out the deceased person’s wishes. The executor of an estate – even in the case of no will – is ultimately responsible for dealing with the deceased person’s possessions and taking care of any legal requirements. Let’s talk about who becomes executor where there’s no will.

What Does an Executor Do?

An executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased and managing their estate. This includes identifying and gathering assets, paying any debts or taxes, distributing funds to beneficiaries, and other necessary tasks. An executor may also have the responsibility of judiciously investing the assets of an estate to maximize its value. The situation can become even more complex when there is no will in place – as there could be more than one interpretation of the state statutes.

Who Gets Appointed as Executor Where There’s No Will?

If there is no will, the courts will often choose a close relative of the deceased as executor – typically their spouse or other adult family members such as children or siblings. In Arizona, A.R.S. Section 14-3203 lists the order in which the court selects an executor where there’s no will. If no family can be found, then the court may appoint a local government official or professional probate fiduciary to act on behalf of the estate. This individual is known as a ‘Personal Representative’ of the estate and typically must submit paperwork to prove their authorization to manage the estate.

When Is Probate of an Estate Needed?

Probate is the legal process used to administer a person’s estate (money, property and other assets) after they die. Probate court will issue a grant of representation called Letters of Personal Representative. This authorizes an executor or Personal Representative to manage the estate on behalf of their loved ones. This involves collecting assets such as investments, real property and other possessions that may have been left behind; preparing taxes; settling debts, such as those owed to creditors; distributing assets in accordance with state law; and ensuring correct distribution of the estate. Also read our blog What You Need to Know About Probate Without a Will 2023.

Should the Executor Hire a Probate Attorney?

If you have been named Executor of an estate without a will, then we highly recommend that you hire a probate attorney. The attorney can help ensure that the process of administering the estate is carried out in a legally compliant manner. This is especially important in cases where complex assets must be distributed or if litigation is involved. An experienced probate lawyer can provide guidance on the best course of action, explain the legal process, and help ensure all parties are treated fairly.

Also read our blog: When Does a Probate Lawyer Get Paid?

How Are The Heirs Protected?

The court will usually require the executor to purchase a fiduciary bond to protect the heirs. A fiduciary bond is a type of insurance taken out by a representative of the estate to protect any heirs or beneficiaries from any wrongdoings in the administration of estate matters. A bond is designed to provide financial recourse for any harm suffered due to mistakes or wrongdoing by the executor. Depending on state laws, other methods may be used to protect heirs, such as restricting all assets of the estate. If assets are restricted, nothing may be paid out or distributed without a court order. This increases the cost and complexity of the probate process.  It is important to contact an experienced probate lawyer so they can explain these options and help ensure your rights are fully protected.


When someone passes away without leaving a valid will, they are said to have died intestate. In such a case, the court will appoint an executor (also called a Personal Representative) to manage the estate.

The exact process for appointing an executor where there’s no will can vary depending on the laws of the state or country where the deceased person lived. Generally, the court will appoint a close family member or friend of the deceased person to serve as the executor. If there is no family member or friend who is willing or able to serve as executor, the court may appoint a professional fiduciary to handle the estate.

Note that the distribution of assets in an intestate estate will be governed by the laws of the state or country where the deceased person lived, and may not necessarily align with the deceased person’s wishes.

Let Us Help You Figure Out Who Becomes Executor Where There’s No Will

If you’re dealing with the probate process of an estate without a will, you’re likely facing a complicated and stressful situation. Hiring an experienced lawyer can help ease the burden and ensure that the process runs smoothly. Our law firm can guide you through every step of the process. Don’t navigate this challenging situation alone – contact us today at 602-443-4888 to schedule a consultation. We can help you protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.


Founding attorney Paul Deloughery has been an attorney since 1998, became a Certified Family Wealth Advisor. He is also the founder of Sudden Wealth Protection Law.