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How can I change the executor of my will?

You can change your executor without creating a new will.

Your will lets you determine how your assets will be distributed upon your death. The executor of your will, also called the personal representative or administrator, is the person responsible for carrying out your wishes. He or she will use your assets to pay your debts and taxes, then distribute your property as stated in your will. This is an important role, so it’s crucial to pick the right person for the job.

But if you already have a will and want to change the executor, you’re allowed to appoint a new executor. You don’t even need to create a new will to do it.

How to change the executor of a will

If you’re making significant changes to your will, you may want to draw up a new one entirely. But if all you want to do is change the executor of your estate, you can simplify the process and add a "codicil" to your will. A codicil is a written amendment that makes changes to your will without invalidating it.

1. Choose a new executor

Many people choose a family member as executor. Just note that they’ll need to be over 18 and of sound mind. Also, most states don’t allow people convicted of a felony to be executor, and others have restrictions on appointing people who live in different states or aren’t US citizens.

2. Create the codicil naming your new executor

Write the codicil on a piece of paper, separate from your existing will. Name the person you wish to serve as executor on it.

3. Validate the codicil

A codicil is validated through the same process used to validate the will, which will vary by state. Some states require two witnesses, others require three. Not all require a notary to witness, but you may want to have a notary even if it isn’t required.

4. Store the codicil for safekeeping

Put the codicil along with the original will—and be sure to tell your chosen executor where the will is kept.

If your chosen executor refuses

A person doesn’t have to act as executor simply because he or she was named in the will. If your chosen executor turns the role down, the court will appoint someone.

You also have the option of naming an alternate executor in your will or codicil, as described in the steps above. It’s a good idea to ask all your chosen executors if they’re willing to take on the responsibility.

Get legal advice

A will is one of the most important documents you’ll ever sign. Be sure to get legal advice on how to change the executor of your estate according to the laws of the state you live in. After all, you don’t want to inadvertently create invalid documents. Post a question in Avvo’s forum for free legal advice, or speak with an estate attorney from your state on the phone and get personalized advice.

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