One of the most important reasons to make a will is to name your executor -- sometimes called a “personal representative” in Virginia. 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 Virginia.
Virginia statutes provide no specific requirements an executor must meet, and you are free to name any adult that you trust as your executor. The court must appoint that person unless someone else challenges your choice of executor and there is clear evidence that he or she has a conflict of interest or is otherwise unfit to serve. (See 15 S.E.2d 56; 63 Va. Cir. 264.)
Choose someone who is honest and able to keep track of details in an organized way. Before you make your will, be sure your choice is willing to accept the job.
While you can name a corporation as your executor, it must be authorized to transact business in Virginia. (Va. Code Ann. § 64.2-1426.) 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.
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 Virginia imposes on out-of-state executors.
In Virginia, a nonresident executor must appoint someone who lives in the state to act as an agent. Your executor’s in-state agent will accept legal papers on behalf of your estatate. A bond may be required unless your executor serves with a resident coexecutor. (Va. Code Ann. § 64.2-1426.)
If you want to know more about an executor’s duties and responsibilities in Virginia, the Virginia Bar Association offers a Guide to the Administration of Decedents’ Estates in Virginia.
For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Wills section of Nolo.com.