It can be an honor if a loved one named you as the executor of their will, also referred to as a personal representative. It means they trust you to handle their most important affairs and carry out their wishes.

However, acting as an executor is often a tough and time-consuming responsibility to take on. You may want to help fulfill your loved one’s wishes, but you may not have the time or ability to do so.

What should you do in this situation?

Why might someone choose not to be an executor?

There are several reasons you may not wish to take on this role, including:

  • You have young children, and the responsibilities of being a good executor would interfere with those of being a parent;
  • You live far away, and administering the estate and managing probate would require extensive travel;
  • You are a caregiver for an ill family member, and do not have the time to handle complex probate matters on top of caring for a loved one; or
  • You do not feel prepared or confident to take on this role.

How can you turn down the role?

Simply being named as an executor in a loved one’s will does not automatically make you one. You have the option to decline to serve.

If you decide to decline to serve as an executor, you should tell the deceased loved one’s family your decision. This gives them notice that things will change and allows them to discuss how they want to move forward.

Then, you may also need to inform the probate court in writing. To officially appoint the personal representative, the court must determine if the named individual is:

  1. Capable of administering the estate properly and fulfilling the duties of a personal representative; and
  2. Willing to accept the roles and responsibilities of a personal representative.

This is when you have the chance to explain that you do not wish to be the executor. However, this is not your only chance. It is important to note that you can still resign from this role even in the middle of probate, though the process will change slightly.

Who will the personal representative be then?

If your loved one’s will names a back-up executor, then the next named person will likely be appointed to administer the estate. However, if there is not a back-up, then the California Probate Code determines who has the next priority to be the personal representative.

Many people might worry that they are letting their loved one or family down by turning down this role, but that is not true. An executor must act in accordance with the deceased loved one’s wishes as provided in their will and in a prudent manner. Turning down the role when you know you cannot fulfill the duties properly is being responsible and putting your loved one’s wishes first.