Choosing a competent and qualified executor of your estate is an essential part of estate planning. This person must fit the criteria under state law and be willing to perform their duties. However, it is possible that a person that you nominate in your Will to administer your estate will not want to serve in that role.
Unfortunately, their refusal can complicate and lengthen the process, leaving an estate with uncertainty as to when probate will conclude. In this case, the probate court will follow legal guidelines to choose an executor if no person comes forward voluntarily.
Every Will should nominate an executor. This person has an obligation under the law to see that the terms of your Will are accomplished after you die. Ideally, this person will know about your nomination and is willing to perform their duties. However, nothing in the law requires them to serve as an executor if they do not wish to do so.
For this reason, it is recommended that you nominate alternative executors in your Will. These people can take over if a primary executor refuses the duty, passes away before you do, or becomes otherwise unable to serve. Many people choose to nominate three people as potential executors to control their estate after they die.
It is possible that no person voluntarily takes on the role of executor. Regardless of the reasons for why this occurs, state probate laws provide guidelines for judges to appoint an executor.
According to North Carolina General Statutes § 28A-4-1, the probate court must issue letters of administration to an executor to aid in performing their obligations for an estate. These letters allow an executor to open an estate bank account and pay debts on behalf of the estate.
The same statute provides an order of preference for who the court may appoint as an executor:
In this way, the court ensures that every estate in the probate process has a qualified executor. That said, leaving the choice of an executor up to the court can significantly delay bringing your estate to a close.
Executors play a vital role in estate administration. This role is so important that a court will not allow an estate to enter probate without an administrator. If no party named in the Will is willing to take on this job, the court will follow the order of preference under law to nominate an executor.
To prevent this determination from being left up to the court, it is best for every person to nominate multiple people who can serve as executors in their Will. These nominees should know that they are named in the Will and be open to the possibility that they will have to take on this important role. Speak with an attorney today to learn more about the role that executors play in the administration of estates, and what it means if a nominee refuses the appointment.