When people make wills, they nominate someone to handle their estates and carry out their wishes after passing away. These individuals are known as personal representatives, administrators, executors, or executrixes.
Executor vs. Executrix
An executrix is a female executor. Trix is a Latin suffix designating a female agent, whereas the Latin suffix tor identifies a male actor, per Collins Dictionary.
We see trix and tor in many other legal terms:
- For example, a male who makes a will is a testator, whereas a female is a testatrix.
- A female administrator is an administratrix.
Today, gender has less bearing on the words people choose. In practice, people might use the term executor to refer to personal representatives, regardless of gender. For instance, people sometimes use the term executor for someone who is not a man. Or, they might opt to employ terms that avoid gender, like personal representative.
Executrix in a Will
However, you might come across the term executrix in reference to women chosen to handle wills.
For example, suppose a man wants his sister to distribute his bequests. His testamentary document states, “I appoint my sister, Mary Smith, as Executrix of this will.” The probate court approves her as the personal representative of the estate. She has the same responsibilities as an executor or personal representative.
What Does an Executrix Do?
When people make wills, they state who will get their money and possessions after they pass. They can determine who gets their assets, such as family, friends, and charities, and can also make specific gifts to individuals. For example, a mother could leave her son her art collection as a specific bequest.
Will drafters may nominate an executrix to distribute their assets according to their wishes when they die. The probate court validates the will and ultimately holds the power to approve the personal representative for larger estates.
Whether the executrix needs to petition the court to open probate following the willmaker’s death depends on the size of the estate.
Smaller estates do not have to go through probate. When the estate size falls below the statutory threshold, the executrix directly handles the estate per the will’s terms. She uses the estate’s assets to pay debts, make charitable donations, and transfer the deceased’s property to beneficiaries.
Larger estates require judicial oversight. Nominated executrixes can petition the probate court to:
- admit the will to probate
- authorize the personal representative
- determine the heirs entitled to notice, and
- open probate
Once the court approves the executrix, she handles the estate distribution with the court’s oversight according to statutory deadlines. The extent of her duties and the duration of her role can depend on the estate’s complexity. Her duties may include the following:
- Identifying and compiling the decedent’s assets. For example, she locates the information for the individual’s accounts and safety deposit boxes.
- Using the assets from the estate, she satisfies the deceased person’s debts and pays creditors.
- Notifying the deceased person’s heirs and the beneficiaries listed in the will. This includes providing them with her contact information and information about the probate court.
- Distributing assets according to the late person’s wishes, beginning with specific bequests. She then transfers the remainder of the estate to the beneficiary. Like all personal representatives, executrixes owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries.
- After the distribution of assets, she files a report to the probate court summarizing her actions as executrix.