Our Estate Planning Blog

Does Your Executor Have To Be A Family Member?

choosing an executor
What happens if you don’t have any family to be personal representative? Other than a family member, who can be personal representative?

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.  Choosing an executor can be a challenge, so it’s best to start from the widest possible pool of options.

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—it can be anyone you wish.

There are some requirements to consider before choosing an executor, and they often  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.  Going with a non-relative when choosing an executor is often best done after letting your family know whom you are choosing and why.

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 should be your executor. Choosing an executor 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.  And failing to name someone will result in a court having to make that choice for you.

Reference: nwi.com (April 18, 2021) “Estate Planning: Non-family member personal representatives”

 

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