Perhaps the most important choice to make in crafting a will is deciding who will serve as executor. Executor, executrix or personal representative, whatever name you use, is the person who will be in charge of your estate and follow the directions in your last will and testament. The first thing clarified in a recent article titled “Estate Planning: Non-family member personal representatives” from nwi.com, is that the person does not have to be a family member.
This is often a surprise to people, who think an adult child or sibling is the only person who can take on this responsibility. This is not true. There is no requirement that a relative be named—anyone you decide may serve as executor.
There are some requirements, which vary from state to state. However, for the most part include the following: the person has to be a legal adult, must not be incapacitated, and cannot be a felon or an “undesirable” person. As long as they are an upstanding member of the community, they may serve.
What are your choices? Some people prefer a family member, even if it is a distant relative or someone with whom they do not have a great relationship. It may take some digging to identify distant relatives. You may also have no idea how someone you don’t know will manage your estate. You should also contact them to be sure they will accept the responsibility. Without having an established relationship, they may decline.
An alternative is a trusted friend, as long as they meet the criteria noted above.
Another option is an institution that holds trust powers, such as a bank’s trust department. Community banks and some national banks do offer traditional trust services, including estate administration. There will be fees, but the experienced and impartial management of your estate may make this a better choice.
Some estate planning law firms serve clients in this role. Talk with your attorney to see if this is a service the firm offers. If the firm does not do this, they may have relationships with other professionals or institutions that can help.
One final note: don’t delay creating an estate plan because you cannot decide who will serve as your executor. Selecting someone for this role is not always an easy or obvious choice, but your estate planning attorney will be able to help you make the decision. Not having an estate plan is far worse than not knowing who to name as your executor.
If you would like to learn more about the role of the executor in an estate plan, please visit our previous posts.
Reference: nwi.com (April 18, 2021) “Estate Planning: Non-family member personal representatives”