Can I Use Niece’s Inheritance to Pay Off Her Student Loans?

 In Probate

Photo by javier trueba on Unsplash


I am the executor of my brother’s estate. My niece and I do not agree on one issue: her student loans. I spoke with a close family friend last night. We both agree that my brother would have wanted me to pay off the student loans. My niece says she wants all the money and she will pay off the loans herself.

Am I as the executor legally allowed to pay the loans from my brother’s estate if my niece (the beneficiary) is saying that she wants all the money directly to her?


Assuming your niece is over the age of 18 and is the heir of your brother’s estate, the funds are hers to do with as she chooses. You can’t direct how she spends her money no matter how misguided you think her spending and investment decisions might be. As executor (also known as personal representative) you must simply distribute to her what is rightfully hers.

The only exception would be if you believed that your niece were incompetent to make financial decisions for herself, perhaps due to mental illness or a drug addiction. You don’t say whether your brother had a will. If so, the will may provide that you can hold an heir’s funds in trust in the event of incapacity. If not, because either there’s no will or no such provision, then you would have to seek conservatorship or guardianship (different terms in different states) to take control of her finances and pay off her student loans.

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