Administering a will can be challenging and time consuming. The person administering the will -- typically called an executor or personal representative -- must deal with legal documents, take an inventory of property, contact beneficiaries and creditors, and distribute property as spelled out in the will. An executor faces additional hurdles if she lives in a different state than where the will is being probated. Still, an out-of-state executor can overcome these hurdles to administer a will successfully.
Most states’ probate laws make it fairly easy for residents of that state to become executors. The minimum qualifications may require little more than the person being an adult who isn’t a convicted felon. A person writing a will typically names a trusted relative or friend, or a professional like a lawyer. Probate courts usually appoint the person named in the will as executor.
Challenges of Out-of-State Executors
Although all states allow out-of-state executors in some fashion, many states give greater scrutiny to would-be executors who don’t live in-state. An executor from another state is a greater risk to the estate: If he acts inappropriately -- like misappropriating money from the estate -- the state probate court would have a more difficult time dealing with him in another jurisdiction. Also, a long distance can present challenges for an executor trying to perform duties like taking care of a house or assessing the value of property. However, the primary purpose of probate is to carry out the decedent’s wishes, so when a will names an out-of-state resident, courts are often willing to appoint that person as executor.
Some states require a resident from another state to provide a financial guarantee that he will obey the law while handling the estate’s assets. The would-be executor would provide this assurance by buying a bond, which is similar to an insurance policy. If the estate loses money because of the executor’s misdeeds – like theft, fraud or negligence – the bond company will pay the estate for the loss. In-state executors may have ways to avoid a bond – for example, if the will says he does not have to post a bond – that do not apply to out-of-state executors. Some would-be executors are unable to post a bond, which may require a good credit rating and cost hundreds of dollars.
Individual states use other strategies to get some assurance that an out-of-state executor will perform her duties properly. Some states will appoint someone from another state only if that person is a beneficiary of the will or a close relative of the decedent. Other states require an out-of-state executor to have a state resident provide assistance as the executor’s representative or co-executor. As a practical matter, executors often hire an attorney or other professional in the decedent’s state, which can help the executor administer the will from a distance.
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