Choosing an executor for your Last Will is important because they are the representative for your estate after you pass away. They’ll file your Will with the local probate court, liquidate your assets to pay any outstanding debts you have, distribute your assets to your beneficiaries and heirs, file your last tax return, and officially close your estate.
Because of the responsibility, many people choose a close loved one as their executor. But what happens if you don’t have any close or surviving family members to appoint?
Who do I choose as my executor when I have no family?
If you don’t have any living relatives, or at least none that you would want to execute your Will, you still have other options.
First, consider appointing a beneficiary as your executor. Odds are that if you have a close enough relationship with someone to leave them gifts (especially larger portions of your estate), you’re close enough to name them as an executor.
You can also name certain professionals (such as lawyers) who have experience closing estates as your executor. If you drafted your Will with a lawyer, you can ask them. You can also ask the banker or financial advisor who manages your finances.
You should be aware, however, that lawyers and bankers usually charge an executor fee for their services. Typically, the fee is 5–7% of the residue of your estate depending on your state’s laws.
Do I Even Need an Executor for My Last Will?
Not everyone names an executor in their Will. In those cases, a probate court appoints an officer as the estate administrator to handle the executorial duties. Probate court is a specialized court that deals with estate matters.
It’s ideal to name your own executor for your own peace of mind. If you don’t name an executor and you don’t have any living relatives, it’s possible your Will might not even be discovered or filed at all. In that case, you’ll be said to have died intestate (i.e. dying without a Will), and your estate will be distributed according to your state’s regulations.
It’s best practice to appoint someone you know and trust as your executor, but keep in mind that a person can refuse to fulfill executorial duties even after you pass away. In that case, the court would appoint an administrator for your estate.
For that reason, you should consider asking a person if they will be your executor before appointing them. If they say yes, it’s a good idea to tell them where you’ve stored your Will to make it easy for them to find and file it promptly after your passing.