How to Change an Executor of a Will and Avoid Problems


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You may choose to change the executor of your will because the original executor died or, perhaps, rejected the responsibility. You can also change a will’s executor if you believe someone else will do a better job. If you don’t know how to change the executor of your will, everything you need to know is here.

Options for Changing the Executor of a Will in California

In California, when you want to appoint a new executor of a will, you have two choices: (1) add codicils or (2) write a new will.

Add a Codicil 

A codicil is an attachment added to amend parts of a will. It’s a convenient alternative to rewriting the entire document when you only want to change a will’s representative or administrator

When using a codicil to change your will’s executor, the first thing to do is pick a new executor. In California, an executor can be anyone, including family members, who is over 18-years-old and of sound mind.

You must then write the codicil that declares the new executor and the date the change takes effect. After adding the codicil, you must validate it by signing and dating it in front of at least two witnesses, who will also sign the document. Beneficiaries and other interested parties to a will cannot be witnesses.

Attach the validated codicil to the existing will and file a copy of both documents with your estate planning attorney or law firm.

Write a New Will

Drafting a new will is another way to change your will’s executor. It’s the ideal option if you are changing more than just your legal representative.

The process of creating a new will is the same as creating the original document. It must contain the names of your executor and beneficiaries and how you want your assets distributed.

The new document needs the signatures of you and two qualified witnesses. You must also destroy all copies of the original will to avoid disputes regarding the legitimacy of the new will in probate court. Typically your new will will include language stating that the new will supersedes any other wills that you may have executed before. 

Using a Codicil vs. Creating a New Will

Using a codicil or writing a new will to change your executor are both acceptable under California state law. Codicils are a better choice if you are changing only a small section of your will. If changing your executor will lead to your will requiring extensive rewrites, it’s best to rewrite the entire document.

What Happens if You Don’t Name an Executor?

If you don’t name an executor for your will, the probate court will assign one, which can slow down the sharing of the estate’s assets. The same thing will happen if you name an executor who then steps down from the role upon your demise. Avoid such issues by naming an alternate executor in your will.

Your named executor must always put the interests of the estate and your beneficiaries first. However, an executor is not a substitute for an attorney. Contact Klosek Law Offices for an estate planning attorney who will provide all the legal advice you need to create a will that cares for your loved ones after your death and will also advise your executor. 

Klosek Law Offices has several locations in Northern California, including offices in Sacramento, Palo Alto, Folsom, and Elk Grove—so we will meet with you at the location most convenient to you.

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