Important rules for out-of-state executors
Every state allows you to be an executor if you live in another state, but most have some conditions.
Several states only allow out-of-state executors who are related to the person who passed away by marriage, blood, or adoption.
Others require an in-state agent to be appointed, and/or an executor bond to be purchased.
Out-of-state executors will be reimbursed for travel expenses, but be prepared for some potential tension over this.
If a loved one has named you executor of their estate, your new responsibility may demand your attention for several months, if not years. It will require you to be diplomatic with family and friends, and to be fully engaged with all the minute details that go into settling a person’s affairs. What’s more, you will be expected to perform these duties while grappling with your personal loss.
This project can be even more complicated if you live in a different state from the one your loved one called home. But the challenge is surmountable, provided you understand how it might affect your work as executor.
The laws pertaining to out-of-state executors vary from state to state, so be sure to double check what rules apply in the relevant location, and consult a lawyer if things are unclear.
Some states, including Alabama, Massachusetts, and Oregon, allow out of state executors without any special accommodations, as long as you are a US citizen, have not been convicted of a felony, and are above 18 (21 in some states). Other states will allow it only under certain conditions.
For example, Florida, Kentucky, and several other states will only allow non-residents to be executors if they are relatives of the person who passed away, defined as related by marriage, adoption, or blood.
Agents and bonds
Over the course of probate, there may be many processes that need to be handled in person, particularly accepting legal papers. This is why a majority of states require out-of-state executors to appoint an in-state agent to handle such legal matters on their behalf. In some of these states, the agent must be a specific person, such as the register of wills or the probate court judge. Other states only allow an out-of-state executor if they are co-executors with someone living locally.
Some states will require an out-of-state executor to post an executor bond, which protects the estate against accidental or intentional mishandling. Indeed, this danger is one reason why probate courts in general are ambivalent about the appointment of executors from out of state; in the event the executor makes a mistake that they are personally liable for, it can be more complicated for the estate to seek damages from an out-of-state executor.
Most of the states that mandate that out-of-state executors buy a bond will waive this obligation if the will explicitly says they do not have to. However, Illinois may require a bond even if the will goes out of its way to say one is not needed.
As an out-of-state executor, you can expect to rack up some travel expenses while working on behalf of the estate. These expenses may include anything from gas to car rentals, plane tickets to taxi fares.
You can absolutely file for reimbursement from the estate for these expenses, but keep in mind that probate court might step in and determine how much mileage reimbursement is allowed. In addition, your loved one’s beneficiaries and heirs might question or challenge your itinerary if they fear reimbursement costs will cut substantially into their inheritance. Avoiding such a situation is one reason that people tend to choose executors who live nearby.
While you are completely within your rights to be reimbursed, do not be surprised if it causes tension with members of the family. It’s advisable to travel as frugally as possible and to be completely transparent with all beneficiaries throughout the process.
Also keep in mind that you are not obligated to be the executor. Although your loved one trusted you with this responsibility, it may not be worth the extra expense to the estate and potential tension with the family. Having a new executor appointed in your place is a straightforward procedure, and in some cases it may be the right choice ●
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