Do I Need to Name an Executor in my Will?

A will executor, also known as a personal representative in Washington, is the individual you appoint to fulfill your expectations after you die. When you die with a clear legal will, the court will authorize the executor to carry out your wishes. 

It is essential to choose an executor who is dependable and well-organized. Oversight by an estate planning and probate attorney plays a crucial role in ensuring that your estate runs smoothly after you pass away.

What Is the Role of an Executor?

The role of your executor will differ based on the complexity of your estate and your wishes. They are responsible for locating and filing your Will in probate court, obtaining your death certificate, preparing an inventory of your assets, filing your final tax return, informing your heirs and beneficiaries of open probate, distributing your assets, and notifying various entities and creditors of your death. 

You will want to make sure your executor understands the role and is willing to take on this task.  Your executor is entitled to reasonable compensation for completion of these duties,

What Factors Do You Consider When Selecting an Executor for Your Will?

The executor you appoint should be a dependable, organized, sensible and capable relative or friend. Trustworthiness, ability, proximity, family dynamics, age, attention to detail, and administrative skills are essential considerations when selecting an executor.  Depending on the size of your estate, there are also fiduciary agencies that will take on this role.

Who Is Qualified to Be an Executor?

In Washington an executor must be at least 18 years old, of sound mind and not convicted of a felony or any crime of moral turpitude (i.e., involving theft or dishonesty). If your executor does not reside in the state where your probate takes place, the executor needs to appoint an in-state agent, usually the probate attorney handling your estate.

What Is the Procedure for Naming an Executor in a Will?

It is as simple as identifying them in your last will.  It is also recommended that you name one or more alternative executors in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve. 

What Should I Do to Prepare my Executor?

Organization is the key to preparing your executor. Now is the time to talk to your future executor and advise where you intend to store your Will and any valuable property.   Preparing a list of financial accounts, assets, insurance policies, etc., is recommended.

May my Executor Serve as a Witness to my Will?

To be legally valid in most states, your Will must be witnessed and signed by two individuals.  It is also recommended that your and your witnesses’ signatures be notarized to avoid the need to locate those individuals at the time of your death.  While your executor may serve as one of the two witnesses, it is not wise for them to do so if they are also an heir or beneficiary to your estate as this could raise questions of undue influence.

What if I Don’t name an Executor in my Will?

If you have not named an executor in your Will, Washington law has provisions dictating who my petition to act as your executor.  This is usually a spouse, family member or beneficiary, but if there is no one available and suitable to serve, a creditor may petition to be appointed instead.

Last, but Not Least

Choosing a trustworthy executor to carry out your will is a crucial step in estate planning. Most estate planning attorneys advise that you review, and if necessary update, your will every few years to ensure that your intent remains the same and your preferred executor is identified.