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 New York.
Your executor must be:
Like many states, New York also prohibits people who have felony convictions from serving as an executor.
(N.Y. Surr. Ct. Proc. Act § § 103, 707.)
In addition to the restrictions above, a New York probate court will reject a potential executor found to be unqualified because of "substance abuse, dishonesty, improvidence, a want of understanding," or who is otherwise unfit to serve.
The court may also determine that someone who is unable to read and write in English is ineligible to serve as an executor.
(See N.Y. Surr. Ct. Proc. Act § 707.)
Under most circumstances, New York law requires your executor to be either a U.S. citizen or a non-U.S. citizen living in New York. A judge won't appoint an executor who is not a U.S. citizen and lives outside of the state, unless you also name a coexecutor who is a resident of New York and the judge approves. (See N.Y. Surr. Ct. Proc. Act § 707.)
Aside from the rules for executors who are not U.S. citizens described above, New York 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.
For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Wills section of Nolo.com.