One of the most important reasons to make a will is to name your executor -- sometimes called a “personal representative” in Missouri. 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 Missouri.
Your executor must be:
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.117.)
Unlike states that prohibit people who have felony convictions from serving as executor, a person convicted of a felony in Missouri is eligible to serve after completing any prison sentence and all terms of parole. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 1.020, 473.117; 5A Mo. Prac., Probate Law & Practice § 661 (3d ed.).)
In addition to the restrictions above, a Missouri probate court will reject a potential executor who is a full-time judge of any Missouri court or a clerk, deputy clerk, or division clerk of any court, unless this person is your surviving spouse or a relative within the third degree of kinship. For example, a judge of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County who is also your grandson could serve as your executor. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.117.)
Furthermore, an executor of the person you name as your executor cannot become your executor. That’s not as complicated as it sounds: Let’s say you appoint your sister as your executor, but she dies while your estate is going through probate. Missouri law prevents the person your sister named as her executor from representing your estate. The job will go to your alternate executor or, if there’s no alternate, to another person appointed by the probate court. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.117.)
Finally, the court will not appoint someone to serve as your executor if he or she is found to be a “habitual drunkard.” (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.117.)
Think carefully before appointing a bank or trust company to represent your estate. It’s almost always best to name an individual; consider an institution only if you don’t know anyone you trust enough to serve or your estate is very large and complex.
In Missouri, corporate executors must be authorized to act as a fiduciary. The company must be located in Missouri unless it files a written Application of Foreign Corporation for Certificate of Reciprocity with the Missouri Commissioner of Finance. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 362.600, 473.117.)
For practical reasons, it’s smart to name an executor who lives near you. Your executor may have to handle day-to-day matters for weeks, months, or sometimes longer. If you must appoint an executor who lives far away, you should know the requirements Missouri imposes on out-of-state executors.
In Missouri, a nonresident executor must appoint someone who lives in the state to act as a resident agent. Your executor’s in-state agent will accept legal papers on behalf of your estate. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.117.)
The probate court has the power to remove an executor if it receives a complaint or determines on its own that this person has become “incapable or unsuitable.” Your executor could be removed if he or she:
If this happens, the judge will terminate your executor’s appointment and designate either your alternate executor or another suitable person as a replacement. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.140.)
For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Wills section of Nolo.com.