Naming an executor in California for an estate is important. If you have someone specific in mind, you’ll want to make sure that you draft a Last Will and Testament that lists the individual as an executor. In this post, we’re going to explain how to choose the right executor, what happens if your executor can’t fulfill their duties, and what happens if you don’t have a will in place. Finally, we’ll answer one of the most common questions asked about naming an executor.
Things to Think about When Naming an Executor in California
The first thing to think about when naming an executor in California is your entire estate plan. We know that may seem vague, but we don’t mean it that way. While there are some common estate planning documents that everyone should use, estate planning is also highly personalized. Depending on the size of your estate and what you plan to do for your beneficiaries, you may need to use other documents. It’s always best to talk about your ultimate vision with an estate planning lawyer so that you understand your options. Depending on the complexity of your estate plan, you may need to appoint an administrator or a trustee (if you use trusts) instead of naming an executor.
Naming an Executor: Characteristics to Watch For
An executor must perform specific tasks. Before anything can be given to the beneficiaries (outside of things such as life insurance and payable on death accounts), the executor must go through the probate process. This includes filing a probate petition in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death, having the will validated by the court so that they are officially named the executor, publishing notices, and paying creditors and taxes. They may need to sell off certain assets, such as a home. They may need to have certain assets appraised. They’ll need to keep an inventory of the assets. For the estate to be closed, which can sometimes take more than a year, they must provide certain reports to the probate court. During this time, they’ll also need to communicate with beneficiaries, heirs, and potential heirs. When naming an executor, you should choose someone with the following characteristics:
- Someone who gets along well with family members, heirs, potential heirs, and beneficiaries. This is one of the best ways to minimize problems such as your will being contested. Grief can make people say and do some odd things that are totally out of their usual nature. Choose someone who knows how to be cordial.
- Someone who resides close enough to you that it isn’t a financial burden for them to perform their duties. It’s not against the law to name an executor who lives in another state or across the nation. However, that can make it financially difficult for many people to fulfill their duties as an executor.
- Someone who is trustworthy. This person must make sure that everyone who may be entitled to a portion of your estate (including creditors) knows about your death. They must make sure that all valid debts and taxes are paid. They may need to have certain property valued.
- Someone who is at least 18 years of age at the time of your death.
Should you name a family member as your executive? If they have the right characteristics, you most certainly can. What about naming more than one executor? You can, but if your executors do not get along, that’s going to cause a big problem. Nothing can be done in the estate unless they both agree to doing it. It may be better to name one executor and name another person as an alternative.
What If the Executor Can’t Fulfill Their Duties?
Naming someone as an executor doesn’t mean that they must take on that role or be subjected to some sort of fine or other legal penalty. If the person does not want to be the executor, they can decline it. The probate court would appoint a new executor. If an alternative executor was named, that person would likely become the executor.
If there is an executor who is not fulfilling their duties although they accepted the role, a lawyer may be able to help the beneficiaries have the executor removed. This, of course, depends on whether the executor actually did anything wrong in the eyes of the probate court.
Naming an Executor without a Will
Many people never get around to writing their will which means that they don’t have anything in writing about who they want to act as the executor of their estate. A probate petition must still be filed. The court will appoint an executor to inventory the assets, publish the proper notices, pay the debts and taxes, and (finally) provide any leftover assets to the beneficiaries.
You should know that in addition to getting no say over who is named as the executor of your estate that the State of California will also follow intestacy laws to distribute your assets. If you are a single parent and leave behind minor children, the State will also decide who will raise your children.
Can a Beneficiary Be Named as the Executor?
The answer is yes. A beneficiary can be named as the executor of your estate. They will still have the same obligations to fulfill. In some families, naming a beneficiary as the executor makes financial and family sense. For others, the beneficiary may be unable or unwilling to take the position. If the beneficiary is someone who, historically, does not get along well with other family members, that could create a problem (or at least an added level of stress).
Are You a Named Beneficiary Waiting to Collect Your Inheritance in California?
If you’re a beneficiary waiting to collect your inheritance from a California estate, we may be able to help. Our goal is to help people just like you collect their inheritance faster and easier. To find out if you qualify for our services, click here to complete a free case evaluation.