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 Rhode Island.
Your executor must be:
(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 33-8-1, 33-8-2.)
Many states prohibit people who have felony convictions from serving as executor. In Rhode Island, however, there is no statute prohibiting you from naming an executor who has been convicted of a felony.
In addition to the restrictions above, 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. Rhode Island law prevents the person your sister named as her executor from representing your estate. Instead, the job will go to your alternate executor or, if there's no alternate, to another person appointed by the probate court. (See R.I. Gen. Laws § 33-8-6.)
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 Rhode Island imposes on out-of-state executors.
In Rhode Island, 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. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 33-18-19.)
For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Wills section of Nolo.com.