Estate planning involves choosing a person to carry out your final wishes in your Last Will and Testament (Will). Many people choose family members, such as a spouse or adult child, as their executors, but relatives are not the only option.
For individuals who don’t have or want a family member to handle their estate, here are some alternative third-party options to explore, like a trusted friend, attorney, CPA, or financial institution.
Who can serve as an executor?
To become an executor of an estate in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a person must meet the following criteria:
- Must be over 18 years of age.
- Must not have been convicted of a felony.
- Must be a resident of the United States.
- Must have not been determined as incapacitated by a court of law.
Why look for third-party options?
There are a few common reasons an individual may look for an executor outside of their family. Sometimes, they have outlived their family members during their lifetime, or the remaining family members are incapacitated and do not meet the requirement to serve as executors. Some individuals may have estranged relatives or dependents. Though they may be a named family member or beneficiary in the Will, an individual may not want them in charge of carrying out their wishes.
If all of your family members live outside of Virginia, they may struggle to serve as executors because they’ll need to travel or find someone else local to fulfill duties such as preparing and selling your home or securing valuable assets after death.
Yet another reason to look for alternative executors occurs when there are concerns that multiple family members may fight amongst one another if named as co-executors or be unable to reach compromise on important decisions regarding the administration of the probate estate. In these situations, an individual should consider appointing a third-party, non-family member to serve as executor in order to keep things as civil as possible during the probate of the estate.
Lastly, if you named a family member to serve as an executor but they’re found to be incapacitated upon your death, the court will appoint the next or alternate person named in the Will (which could be a third-party representative).
Alternative options for an executor
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA): Appointing your CPA or a Certified Financial Planner as your executor may be an optimal choice as they are already familiar with your financial situation including your assets, debts, and the value of your estate. An experienced financial advisor may also have knowledge of the probate process and be able to keep everything on track as your estate runs through probate courts.
- Public administrator: A public administrator, including an experienced lawyer, could make the probate process easier on loved ones as they are impartial and have experience supporting Wills through the probate process.
- Financial institutions or corporate fiduciaries: A financial institution is another impartial choice to serve as the executor of your estate. A corporate fiduciary is a financial institution, trust company, or other corporation that has been given permission to carry out an estate, act as a trustee, or settle estates. In Virginia, trust corporations and companies can administer estates; however, the corporate executor must have the ability to do business in Virginia to be appointed as an executor.
- A friend: Trust goes a long way when appointing an executor. If you have a long-time friend you trust who has qualities such as great organizational skills, comprehension, and responsibility, you may want to appoint them as the executor of your estate.
No matter who you select as your executor, it’s important to discuss the arrangement with that individual or entity before you name them in your Will. Once you’ve spoken with your chosen executor, continue to update them with any changes to your estate plans so they can stay up to date on your final wishes.
Looking for help with estate planning in Northern Virginia? The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor has helped Virginia families plan ahead and address their unique estate planning needs for over 20 years. Schedule your free consultation with us today.