Who is a beneficiary?
A beneficiary is any person, pet, or charitable organization named in the will who will receive funds or assets. This can include cash legacies, bequests of real or personal property, securities, interests in testamentary trusts, remainder interests in life estates, and all or part of the residue of the estate.
Mom left her wedding rings to my sister, but I'm the executor and I'd like them too. Do I have to give them to her?
You're required to follow the instructions left in the will exactly and are not allowed to make your own decisions about who gets what. If you really feel the will is unfair to you, you can contest it, but that requires filing an estate dispute.
What happens to Dad's two dogs now that he's gone?
You're now in charge of finding care for the dogs. You can either care for them yourself, find a family member or friend willing to take them, or put them up for adoption at the local shelter. Remember to check the will for any pet care provisions!
My siblings are insisting on taking some personal items from the estate that are of sentimental value to them. Should I let them?
No you can't. It is often difficult being the executor because you're dealing with people who are grieving and have sentimental attachment to many estate assets, but that does not entitle them to anything. You must take inventory of all estate possessions and keep them safe until you're at the stage in the estate administration where you can give them out. If someone else has taken something they shouldn't have, you will be on the line for it.
The charity named in my mom's will just asked for a copy of the will and an update on the estate proceedings. Am I allowed to share information with them?
Charities are considered beneficiaries in the will, and are therefore entitled to a copy of the will. They are also allowed to protect the value of their donation or "gift" by asking questions about the estate management. If you make a mistake that diminishes their donation, you could find yourself in court.