The term “successor” holds significant importance. 

It plays a crucial role in determining the orderly distribution of assets and the execution of a decedent’s final wishes as outlined in a last will. 

This blog post delves into the legal intricacies surrounding successors in wills.

Who are Successors?

In the context of a last will, a successor refers to an individual or entity designated to inherit or take over specific responsibilities.

This will be upon the testator’s death (the person making the will).

Successors can wear various hats, such as beneficiaries, executors, trustees, or even guardians of minor children.

Beneficiaries As Successors

Beneficiaries are perhaps the most commonly recognized successors in wills.

They are the individuals or entities named to receive specific assets or inherit a share of the decedent’s estate.

Beneficiaries can include family members, friends, and charitable organizations.

It can also include any person or entity designated by the testator.

The will typically outlines the distribution plan, specifying what each beneficiary is entitled to receive.

Executors And Administrators As Successors

Executors and administrators are crucial successors entrusted with managing the deceased’s estate.

An executor is a person appointed by the testator to carry out the instructions in the will.

He ensures that assets are distributed according to the testator’s wishes.

In cases where there is no valid will, a court-appointed administrator manages the estate, adhering to state laws governing intestate succession.

Trustees As Successors

Trustees are successors appointed to manage trusts established within a will.

Trusts can serve various purposes, such as providing for minor children.

It ensures ongoing support for beneficiaries or achieving specific charitable goals. 

Guardians As Successors

In instances where minor children are involved, the will may designate guardians as successors.

These individuals are responsible for the care, upbringing, and well-being of the children if the parents pass away.

Courts generally consider the testator’s choice for guardianship, but the final decision is subject to judicial approval.

This will be with the child’s best interests taking precedence.

Legal Framework And Responsibilities

The legal framework governing successors in wills varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, often guided by state or national laws.

The responsibilities and powers of successors are outlined within the applicable legal statutes.

It determines their scope of authority and duties.

These responsibilities may include:

Distributing Assets: 

Beneficiaries and executors must adhere to the will’s distribution plan.

They ensure that assets are transferred promptly and per the law.

Managing Estate Affairs: 

Executors and administrators are responsible for settling outstanding debts and handling taxes.

They are also responsible for overseeing the liquidation of assets when necessary.

Trust Administration: 

Trustees must manage trusts diligently.

They also need to invest assets prudently and disburse income and principal as mandated by the trust instrument.


Guardians are entrusted with the welfare of minor children.

It provides them with a stable and nurturing environment in alignment with the testator’s wishes.

Example 1: The Johnson Family

Background Scenario:

Mr. Samuel Johnson, a wealthy businessman, passed away, leaving behind a sizable estate.

He named his daughter, Emily Johnson, in his will, as the successor to his assets and properties.

Emily is an accomplished attorney and was very close to her father.

Samuel’s will specifies that she inherits his entire estate, including his real estate properties, financial investments, and personal belongings.


In this scenario, Emily Johnson is named the successor in her father’s will. She will inherit all of his assets and properties upon his passing. This decision was likely made because Samuel had a close relationship with his daughter and trusted her to manage his estate responsibly. Emily will now be responsible for managing and distributing the assets as per her father’s wishes, which may include providing for other beneficiaries mentioned in the will, paying off debts, and handling any legal matters related to an estate.