Creating or updating your California will involves making many important decisions. “What property will be in my estate at the time of my passing and who should receive that property?” and “Should I incorporate trusts and other estate planning instruments in conjunction with my will?” are just a few of these questions.
But one of the most important – and yet often not thought through – questions is who should serve as the executor or “personal representative” of the estate. The executor is the person who will be tasked with actually carrying out the wishes you include in your will. These duties include not just passing property onto your designated beneficiaries but also paying off creditors and working with the probate court, attorneys, and other family members and interested parties to ensure that your affairs are handled appropriately and in accord with your stated desires.
Thus, choosing an executor should not be an afterthought, and ideally the decision should be discussed with the intended executor and other interested parties at the time you create the will. Here are five qualities to look for in selecting your California will executor.
Does the Person Meet California’s Executor Requirements?
The requirements to be an executor in California are limited, but you still want to keep them in mind. Essentially, an executor needs to be 18 years old and of sound mind. Other than that, any person is free to serve as an executor, even if they have a criminal record.
Is the Person in a Geographical Position to Carry Out the Duties?
There is no requirement that your executor live in California to carry out his or her duties. But, before you name your daughter who works in New York City as an attorney to be an executor, ask whether she will really be in a position to handle the duties of working with local counsel at your local probate court, organizing your property in California, and distributing it to beneficiaries and creditors wherever they may be located.
Do You Trust the Intended Executor?
Although the executor is overseen by a judge in probate court, the executor will be able to exert control over all of your property, and you should not presume that the court and other parties will act as a vigilant watchdog to ensure that all of your property is properly accounted for and delivered in accordance with your will. Clearly, it is important to go with an executor whom you can trust to handle all of your post-passing financial affairs on your behalf.
Does the Person Have the Organizational Skills to Get the Job Done?
No matter how trustworthy the person is, matters can easily go off the rails if the executor you select is lacking in the organizational skills to handle your property and deal with family members, courts, attorneys, and others.
This does not at all mean that your intended executor needs to be an attorney or a financial professional. Instead, look for someone whom you can count on to seek out the professional guidance he or she needs to get the job done.
Does the Person Want to Be Your Executor?
Often, the most overlooked aspect of selecting an executor is whether the person you choose actually wants to be an executor. Your son-in-law might be the CFO of a Fortune 500 company that has managed intricate financial dealings far more complex than your estate, but if he has no time or desire to actually work on your behalf after your passing.
There is financial compensation available to executors, so it is not as if they are expected to undertake all of the work involved with executing the estate for free, but find out ahead of time whether your intended executor has the time and will to do the work you need them to do after you pass.
Update Your Estate Planning With a Pasadena Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning and probate attorney Christopher B. Johnson, located in Pasadena, California, has years of experience in all aspects of estate planning, and works with clients from all walks of life to create estate planning tools that reflect their needs and those of their beneficiaries. To request an immediate consultation, contact him today at (877) 755-9178.