Choosing An Executor

An executor is the person who will be appointed by the probate court to handle your estate and any of your final affairs – is one of the most important decisions in preparing a will.

Within your Will, you can nominate who you wish to serve in this role and the court will typically honor your nomination unless there are extenuating circumstances, like the person you nominated is incapaciated and unable to serve in the role, the person declines to serve, or the person is legally not authorized to serve in the role. 

For example, North Carolina does not permit individuals with felony criminal records to serve as executor unless they’ve had their citizenship fully restored which typically means they’ve served their full sentence and are no longer on parole or probation.

Choosing an executor for your last will and testament

An Executor Should Be Someone Who Is Trustworthy, Organized, And Responsible.

They will have many responsibilities, including:

  • Gathering your assets
  • Paying debts or taxes that may be owed 
  • Filing various court filings
  • Distributing the estate according to the wishes set forth in your Will and the law

If there are multiple beneficiaries, the Executor will also function somewhat as the family spokesperson in terms of keeping the other beneficiaries informed of the progress in handling the estate. Often, we find that clients will nominate the same person to serve as their financial agent under their durable power of attorney and their executor under their will as there are a lot of similarities between the roles. Your financial agent, under your durable power of attorney, is helping to manage your assets while you’re still living but incapacitated, whereas your executor is helping to handle your financial matters after your death.

Similarly, if you are setting up any sort of trust, whether that’s a revocable living trust or perhaps a trust for your minor children after your death, often people will name the same individuals to serve in both roles as there is a lot of overlap and similarities between the roles and responsibilities.

When we see people list co-agents for financial power of attorney or co-trustees, for the role of executor specifically, we often encourage to only name a single individual to serve in the role at a time. Otherwise, it can potentially slow down the probate process because we have to get both individuals appointed as executors and they have to jointly sign off on most of the transactions and court filings. 

Does My Executor Need To Be A Local? 

While it can be helpful for handling day-to-day estate matters, it’s not required. For out of state executors, the court will require the executor to appoint a local service agent--this is someone within the state of North Carolina that can receive court notices. Many executors wind up hiring an attorney to help with the estate administration process, so typically the attorney will serve as the local service agent.

What Do I Do If I Don't Have Someone I Entrust With This Role?

You may wish to consider naming a professional to serve as your executor. If you think a professional may be a better fit for you, you should definitely discuss this further with your attorney who can help determine whether that’s the best fit for you and may be able to recommend professionals that may fit your needs.

If you have additional questions or need more guidance in selecting your executor, then you may want to consider the help of our team at Carolina Family Estate Planning. Give our office a call, 919-629-9214, for a free needs assessment and to learn more about working with our team.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning
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