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What is the role of a successor executor?

On Behalf of | Feb 27, 2024 | Fiduciary Representation |

Many people who write a will name a particular person in the document to serve as the executor of their estate. However, sometimes the testator outlives the executor, meaning the person selected to care for the estate is not available.

To account for situations where an executor is not able to take up the duties of the position, it can help to have a successor executor ready to administer the estate.

Designation of a successor executor

Like an original executor, a successor executor is a person a testator designates in a will to take over the duties of the original executor if that person is unable or unwilling to serve. The designation is no more complicated than naming an ordinary executor in a will, and can serve as a backup plan to keep an estate in the hands of someone loyal to the testator.

When a successor takes over

A successor executor can step up in just about any situation when the original executor cannot serve. Aside from the death of the first executor, a successor can also fill in if the first executor becomes incapacitated due to illness, dementia or injury.

Sometimes other situations necessitate the activation of a successor. The original executor may decline the appointment or resign from it, deciding the duties are too time-consuming or complicated to take on. Also, the first executor choice may have moved too far away to contact or just refused communication.

The advantages of a successor executor

Having a designated backup executor offers several advantages for an estate plan. It provides continuity if the first executor cannot serve. The successor can step in and settle the estate without court intervention. Naming a successor also helps ensure there will be an executor familiar with the estate.

Also, it is more efficient than having the probate court appoint another administrator. Multiple persons may want the executor position, adding time to the probate process while the court makes a decision.

Successor executors are a simple way to avoid complications and ensure the proper handling of an estate. It is also possible to name a second or third successor executor in a series of backups in case a successor executor also cannot serve, helping to add further protection to an estate plan.