California Estate Planning Lawyer: How to Choose an Executor or Successor Trustee


Last updated 12/9/2020 at 10:16am

Choosing an Executor or Successor Trustee is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Who you select will be the one responsible for making major decisions about your estate. Careful consideration should be given when you are ready to choose an Executor or a Successor Trustee.

Selecting your spouse or significant other as your Executor or Trustee is common, although it’s not required, nor is it the only option. If you have a sibling or an adult child that you trust to handle your affairs, you could certainly name them in administrative roles. People who never married or never had children may choose to have a relative or close friend act as their administrator. Having an attorney act as your Executor or Trustee is an option, too. It’s also wise to have an alternative selected should your first choice be unable to carry out the responsibilities.

When choosing an Executor or Successor Trustee, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you should choose someone who will be committed to the role. The estate administration process can be lengthy and time-consuming, and your Executor or Trustee should be someone who can see it through to the end.

The person you’ve chosen should obviously be someone you trust to manage your finances after your death. They are going to have access to your accounts, and they will be responsible for taking care of the financial obligations, so you don’t want to leave that kind of power in the hands of someone who has the potential to misuse it, whether intentionally or simply by not being good with managing money.

Handling an estate and executing a will or trust often involves some detailed paperwork including signatures and deadlines. Make sure that the person chosen as your administrator is someone who is organized, can focus on details, and is good at communication. Because emotions may run high and conflict could arise, selecting an Executor or Trustee who can be rational, neutral, and level-headed will also be helpful.

Geographical proximity is also something to keep in mind. Handling your estate may involve meeting with your attorney, going to the courthouse, and retrieving or monitoring your personal property. Although it’s not necessary to choose someone who lives near you, it may be a deciding factor.

One final thing to take into consideration before giving someone the responsibility of being the Executor or Trustee of your estate is whether or not they want it. Take the time to have a discussion with the person or people you have in mind, and make sure they are aware of the kind of commitment this is and what their duties will be. Some people may not feel like they are up to the task, whether that’s because they have so much going on in their own life, they believe they would struggle to set aside their grief, or a combination of both. The last thing you want to do is have the job handed off to someone who isn’t prepared for it, especially at such a difficult time.

Once you are ready to legally document your wishes, we invite you to contact our law firm to start the process of creating a Will or Trust. We have various offices throughout California to make the process as easy as possible for you. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 800-244-8814.

– Robert Galliano, Attorney at Law, Copenbarger & Copenbarger, LLP