Whether the executor of a decedent's will can live out of state depends on the laws of the state in which the will is probated. Some states allow out-of-state family members to serve as executors, while others require a state resident co-qualify as an executor or serve as an agent. Ask the attorney drafting your will about laws in your particular state.
The executor, or personal representative, is the person you appoint in your will to handle the administration of your estate throughout the probate process after your death. The role entails a great deal of responsibility, time and effort. Ask the person you intend to appoint if he is willing to serve before drafting the will. You should also appoint an alternate executor if the primary executor cannot serve. Co-executors are also a possibility. Family members who inherit under the will often serve as executors. The executor generally works with the estate's attorney, along with other professionals such as accountants or appraisers.
Choosing an Executor
Some states permit only relatives of the decedent, or a non-relative who is a primary beneficiary of the estate, to serve as executor if the person lives out-of-state. Depending on the state, nonresident executors may be required to post a bond with the court in order to serve. This bond acts as a guarantee the executor will manage the estate properly, in order to protect the heirs. In Virginia, for example, an executor residing outside of the Old Dominion must bring a state resident to the probate clerk's office for co-qualification as executor or registration as a designated agent of the estate. In Ohio, only relatives of the decedent, by marriage or blood, may serve as executor if living out-of-state. However, if the state in which the executor resides allows a non-relative to serve as executor, Ohio law allows reciprocation.
You do not have to name a relative or friend as executor. You may name a fiduciary institution, such as a bank or trust company. In this case, it must be a fiduciary institution licensed to do business in your state.
An out-of-state executor will likely need to travel to your state to carry out at least some of her duties. This may be difficult if she has work and family obligations. She may seek reimbursement from the estate for travel and other estate administration-related expenses. The out-of-state executor may also permit the estate's attorney to handle most estate matters, but the legal fees incurred will mean less money eventually disbursed to heirs.
After the filing of the will in the probate court of the county in which the decedent resided, the executor is qualified by the court to begin estate administration. She must publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper, preserve all of the assets titled solely in your name and contact beneficiaries named in the will. Within a limited time, which varies by state, she must submit an inventory of all of your solely owned real estate and personal property to the court with the value of each asset at the time of your death. After paying debts and filing your final income tax return and the estate return with any taxes due, the executor submits a final accounting to the estate and distributes the remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries. While the process may differ slightly depending on the state and size of the estate, these are the executor's general duties.
Read More: Duties for a Co-Executor of a Will
Other Executor Restrictions
While it's generally possible to have a relative living out-of-state serve as your executor if that is the individual you really want handling your estate, certain people cannot serve as executors no matter what the state of residence. To qualify in a probate court, executors must be United States citizens over the age of 18 and cannot have been convicted of any felony. These conditions hold for relatives and non-relatives alike.
A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt writes regularly for various legal blogs. Her work has appeared in LegalZoom, USA Today and many other publications.