California Restrictions on Who Can Serve as Executor

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

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.

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.

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

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 he or she is likely to mismanage or neglect your estate. 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 § § 8402, 8502, 8522.)

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 that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to appoint someone who lives far away. 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.

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