You seem to be in the US and I have no doubt that there are some differences in the legal system. However, In England, an Executor is a person appointed by another person when he/she is drawing up a Will, requesting that the first person will act as Executor, i.e. will see that all the requests and wishes expressed in the Will are carried out.. The Executor can do this himself or herself, or employ a solicitor to do the actual work, but has the legal responsibility of seeing that everything is carried out as the Will maker wished. There is absolutely no way that anybody can appoint himself/herself as an executor. In addition if someone like your gt.uncle was "institutionalised" and you mean by this that he was mentally impaired he would not be considered capable of appointing anyone to represent him. The courts would have to appoint a guardian. I have a strong feeling that there would be something similar in most legal systems but my advice would be get some legal advice - ask a lawyer. As far as patients in hospitals are concerned medical files are usually closed for an extended period, in England it is 100 years, to protect any living relatives who might not wish the full details to be made public. After 100 years it is assumed that anybody associated with the patient will also be deceased. Hope this helps a bit.