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Pennsylvania Restrictions on Who Can Serve as Executor

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

One of the most important reasons to make a will is to name your executor -- sometimes called a "personal representative" in Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania.

Basic Requirements for Serving as a Pennsylvania Executor

Your executor must be:

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

Unlike many states, Pennsylvania has no general statute that prohibits you from naming an executor who has been convicted of a felony. However, a Pennsylvania probate court will reject a potential executor who has been charged, "whether by indictment, information or otherwise," with your death by voluntary manslaughter or homicide, unless the charge is withdrawn, dismissed, or the person has been found not guilty at trial. The only exception to this rule is if your death was ruled a vehicular homicide.

(20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3156.)

Rules for Corporate Executors

While you can name a corporation as your executor, it must be authorized to act as a fiduciary in Pennsylvania. (20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3156.) That said, 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.

Pennsylvania Restrictions on Out-of-State Executors

Pennsylvania permits out-of-state residents to serve as executor and it does not impose any special requirements on them. That said, it also allows the register of wills to "refuse letters" to a nonresident. (20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3157.) But if your best option for executor lives out of state, don't let this possibility of refusal concern you. The court is unlikely to refuse your choice unless there are other compelling reasons to deny the appointment -- for example, if you named a nonresident because you thought there might be a legal advantage to doing so.

Of course, when possible, it's usually best to name an executor who lives near you because 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

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