Can a beneficiary of a will also be an executor (personal representative) of the will?

Yes. You are advised to name someone you trust to be executor, or personal representative, of your estate. Many times you also wish to include that person in your will. Naming a beneficiary to be the executor of your will is a perfectly acceptable practice in West Virginia. However, any person appointed executor has her primary responsibility to the estate. If there is any conflict between the personal interests of the executor and the interests of the estate, the executor can be removed. In addition, the executor can be sued by other heirs for acting in his or her own best interest at the expense of the estate. 

The estate is further protected by requiring an executor to post a bond equal to the value of the estate. The bond is used as security if the executor does anything improper with the estate’s assets. The necessity for this bond may be waived in the will.  

Some states do require executors to be independent. If you move to another state, check the law of the state to be certain that you named an appropriate executor. In West Virginia, being a witness to a will does not mean that you cannot also be named an executor. 

For more information, see: W. Va. Code §§ 41-2-3 , 44-1-3, 44-1-6 to -8, 44-5-5 (2015); Hensley v. Copley, 122 W. Va. 621, 11 S.E.2d 755 (1940); Rayburn v. Rayburn, 34 W. Va. 400, 12 S.E. 493 (1890).