An executor, also called a personal representative, is the person in charge of distributing property to heirs and settling a decedent's estate. A female appointed to handle an estate is sometimes called an executrix. Naming an executor in a will avoids the need for a court-appointed executor after death and usually saves the estate money. This is because court-appointed executors generally charge high fees in contrast to relatives or friends who are chosen to serve.
Naming an Executor
Choose an executor who is responsible, competent, trustworthy and willing to serve. Check executor restrictions in your state since some jurisdictions prohibit felons from serving or have special requirements for executors living out-of-state. Also check state age requirements since executors usually must be at least 18 years old.
Include a provision in your will that specifically appoints the person of your choice as executor of your estate. When drafting your will, you should always consider consulting a legal advisor or online legal document service. Make the appointment direct and clear. For example, "I hereby nominate John Doe to serve as executor of my estate." Consider appointing an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable to serve. For example, "If John Doe cannot or will not act as my estate's executor, I nominate Jack Smith as alternate executor."
Consider waiving bond requirements for your executor. This means your executor will not need to post a bond to begin probating the estate. Also consider allowing for an independent or unsupervised probate of your estate. This allows for a quicker process since the executor, who then may be referred to as an independent administrator, can act with less probate court involvement. Check your state laws and carefully consider your particular circumstances when making decisions about bonds and independent probate directions.
Each state has its own probate laws governing decedent estates and executors. You should check with a legal expert in your state to answer specific questions about executorships to ensure you are are complying with your state law. You should not give legal advice or draft legal documents for third parties unless you are an attorney.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.