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Are relatives qualified to be executors of California estates?

This question can only be answered by you as a testator, the will creator. The decision to designate a spouse or other relative as the executor of your estate depends on the qualities, abilities and willingness of the family member.

An estate planning attorney would not recommend forcing the job of a California executor on anyone who doesn't want it or someone who is incapable of the work. Spouses and adult children seem like the logical default for the job, but that doesn't mean they are the best qualified.

An executor juggles multiple responsibilities with the ultimate goal of dividing estate assets among beneficiaries. Time-consuming and deadline-oriented duties lie between a person's death and property distribution.

The person chosen as the executor of a California estate must file a petition with the court to confirm the will is legitimate. At the same time, heirs are given notice of the testator's death.

An accounting of vital documents, estate assets and liabilities is necessary, which a testator can expedite by including instructions in an estate plan. Debts must be settled and accounts closed. Notification of the person's death must be shared with applicable financial and government institutions, including the Internal Revenue Service.

A family member may or may not be reliable or skilled enough to handle the detailed tasks. Other options for executor choices include trusted friends and financial or legal professionals. Executors are paid, although relatives or friends of a decedent often turn down the fee, frequently because they are also beneficiaries.

Desire must match qualifications for an executor. Some relatives may not want the fiduciary responsibility, especially when the estate is complex. In some cases, relatives turn down the job to avoid possible family disputes or legal challenges over the estate.

Executors who are family members do not have to perform the duties alone. Financial and legal advisers can assist in settling the estate.

Source:, "How to choose the right executor for your will" Jim Miller, Jul. 03, 2013

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