Here’s the short answer:
There is nothing that says an executor, executrix, or personal representative cannot also be a beneficiary. That would be absurd: who are the most common beneficiaries? Spouses, family members, and close friends, right? It makes sense that the person(s) taking on the responsibilities and duties of being an executor would also often have a share in the estate’s assets.
An executor has fiduciary duty to not act in their own self-interest
That being said, an executor becomes a fiduciary when completing probate, and therefore has a legal and moral responsibility to put the interests of the deceased, and therefore the will and/or intestacy laws (laws that govern what happens when someone passes away without a will), above any of their own interests.
As a hypothetical: just because someone wanted to keep a house the deceased owned instead of selling it and splitting the proceeds between beneficiaries and a charity, as the will described, doesn’t mean they can. They have to do what the will says. If they don’t, other beneficiaries could complain and get the probate court to force the executor to act according to the will, and in some cases even have criminal charges pressed against them.
Executors also get paid separately for their work during probate
Probate can be a pretty wild amount of work. We’re talking on average around 12 hours a week for a year or more. That’s like 600+ hours to get through probate. If someone is spending that much time doing something, it only makes sense to pay them.
In fact, executors are legally entitled to compensation for their efforts. This can be a percent of assets, a flat fee, an hourly rate — it just depends on the will OR the local intestacy laws.
In cases where an executor is also a beneficiary, they will sometimes waive their executor compensation since they know that money is coming out of the estate anyway.
Either way, if an executor wants to get paid, they can.
The bottom line on executors benefiting from wills
It is extremely common for executors to be beneficiaries and get paid by the estate for their work, meaning that yes, they can benefit from a will. This shouldn’t be an issue unless you expect foul play.
👉 Read more: Can an Executor Take Everything?