California Restrictions on Who Can Serve as Executor

Learn the rules about who can be your executor in California.

By , Master of Science in Library and Information Science, Long Island University
Updated by Jeff Burtka, Attorney (George Mason University Law School)

One of the most important reasons to make a will is to name your executor. After your death, your executor's primary job is to protect your property until any debts and taxes have been paid, and then transfer what's left to those who are entitled to it.

Every state has some rules about who may serve as the executor of an estate that goes through probate. Here are the requirements in California.

Basic Requirements for Serving as a California Executor

Your executor must be:

  • at least 18 years old, and
  • of sound mind—that is, not judged incapacitated by a court.

(Cal. Prob. Code §§ 8402, 8502; Cal. Fam. Code § 6502 (2024).)

Many states prohibit people who have felony convictions from serving as executor. In California, however, there is no statute prohibiting you from naming an executor who has been convicted of a felony. But a person who feloniously and intentionally killed the decedent is barred from serving as the decedent's personal representative. (Cal. Prob. Code § 250 (2024).)

Special Rules for Executors in California

In addition to the restrictions above, a California probate court can reject a potential executor if it finds that any of several "grounds for removal" exist. For example, the court may find that the person you've named as your executor is incapable of carrying out the necessary duties, or that your choice is likely to mismanage or neglect your estate. (Cal. Prob. Code § 8502 (2024).)

It's highly unlikely, but if a question arises about the qualifications of the person you've named as your executor, the court will hold a formal hearing in front of all "interested persons"—such as your spouse, heirs, creditors, and other potential executors. At the hearing, a judge will determine who is best suited to serve as executor and terminate any appointment found to be improper. (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 48; 8500 (2024).)

California Restrictions on Out-of-State Executors

Unlike many other states, California does not impose special requirements on executors who live out of state. But some probate judges may require an out-of-state executor to post a bond. (Cal. Prob. Code § 8571 (2024).)

For practical reasons, it's usually best to name an executor who lives near you. Your executor may have to handle day-to-day matters for weeks, months, or sometimes longer.

Learn More

For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Wills section of Nolo.com.

Ready to create your will?

Get Professional Help
Talk to an Estate Planning attorney.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you