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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Who should you appoint as executor in your will?

You already know you should have a will, but maybe you’re getting caught up trying to decide whom you should appoint as your executor. What does the law say? Can you appoint your family members as executors? What about your brother who lives in another state? Can you appoint more than one executor?

California probate laws are reasonably accommodative. However, it may be a good idea to consult a California wills and trusts lawyer to help you go about appointing an executor for your estate.

Who Is an Executor?

An executor/executrix is the person responsible for administering your property according to your will. This individual is the person you’ve named in your will to be in charge of the distribution of your estate after your death. Some of the duties of an executor are:

  • Arrange your funeral

  • Gathering all the estate’s assets and liabilities

  • Paying all accrued debts

  • Pay taxes where applicable

  • Distribute property according to the will.

As you can see, the executor’s role is extensive. The bigger the estate, the more taxing the executor’s duties will be. In some cases, the executor may have to play a mediator’s role when family members squabble over shares of the estate. This is why choosing an honest and competent executor should be one of your top priorities.

Who Should You Choose as an Executor?

Here’s what to look out for when appointing an executor:

  • Trust

    Perhaps the most important quality your executor must have is trustworthiness. They should be someone you know will deal with your estate honestly, according to your wishes and for the best interests of your beneficiaries.

    Before appointing someone an executor, ask them. Remember they have a right to accept or deny that appointment. If they accept the role, it is recommended that you furnish them with a copy of the will. In addition, you can forward information such as your social security number, life insurance policies, mortgages, deeds, safety deposit boxes, total investments and even where to find your computer passwords. Such information will save them the burden of chasing the information down so that your estate is administered efficiently. Such personal information should be handled cautiously. This is why trust should be your first concern when choosing an executor.

  • Legal Capacity

    According to California law, an executor should be over 18 years of age and be of sound mind. Unlike many other states, California does not prohibit the appointment of a person who lives in a different state as an executor. However, this may not be advisable, if you have a choice. It is always better, safer and quite frankly more expedient to appoint someone who lives close to you.

     

  • Competence

    An executor should be competent enough to gather all your assets and liabilities; pay off debts and distribute property as per the will. Competence should be a requirement where the will is likely to be contested in court because of how property has been distributed. It is equally necessary for large estates and for estates with complex issues such as taxes or debts.

Look at the qualifications and expertise of the executor. An accountant, financial advisor or lawyer can be a good pick for your estate. You can even appoint a trust or the Public Trustee as your executor.

Can I Appoint a Family Member or Friend as an Executor?

Of course you can. You can appoint your spouse, children, siblings, relatives or even friends to act as your executors. If you decide to choose family members, opt for two executors rather than one. Appointing one family member may put that person in an enviable position. Remember to include guidelines in your will on how the two executors will settle disagreements.

Inform your family of whom you have appointed as an executor. This way, it won’t be a surprise to them and they’ll know whom to look to when the time for distribution of the estate arrives.

Every estate is unique in its own way so there are many considerations that go into choosing an executor. Contact one of our wills and trusts lawyers to help you decide the best executor for your estate.

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