One of the most important reasons to make a will is to name your executor -- commonly called a “personal representative” in Wisconsin. 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 Wisconsin.
Your executor must be:
(Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 856.23.)
Many states prohibit people who have felony convictions from serving as executor. In Wisconsin, however, there is no statute prohibiting you from naming an executor who has been convicted of a felony.
In addition to the restrictions above, a Wisconsin probate court will reject a potential executor found to be “unsuitable for good cause shown.” For example, someone who has a conflict of interest or lacks the mental capacity to carry out the business of winding up your estate would be ineligible to serve as your executor. (See Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 856.23; 667 N.W.2d 862; 91 Wis.2d 773.)
While you can name a corporation as your executor, it must be authorized to act as fiduciary in Wisconsin. (Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 856.23.) That said, think carefully before appointing a corporation 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 Wisconsin imposes on out-of-state executors.
Generally, in Wisconsin, 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. That said, the court has the authority to refuse to appoint or to remove an executor based solely on grounds of residency. (Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 856.23.)
For more information about choosing your executor and making your will, see the Wills section of Nolo.com.