Choosing an executor for your Last Will is an important part of your estate plan as they will be the point person 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 heavy responsibility, many people choose a close relative—someone they trust—to carry out their last wishes when they pass away. But what happens if you don’t have any close or surviving family members to appoint?
If this is your situation, keep reading to find out who else can act as the executor of your Last Will.
Who Do I Choose as an 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, there are still other options for you to think about in choosing an executor.
The first thing you should consider is who your beneficiaries are. If you’re leaving assets or the residue of your estate to specific people, maybe close friends or their children, consider naming one of them 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) in your Last Will and Testament, you’re close enough to name them as an executor.
There are also professionals you can name as executors with a lot of experience closing estates. If you drafted your Will with a lawyer, you can ask them to be your executor. 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, which is typically 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, the probate court (a specialized court dealing with estate matters like determining the validity of a Will, distributing assets, and ensuring debts are paid) will appoint an officer of the court as estate administrator to handle the executorial duties.
However, 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.
Who will you name as your executor?