Why name an alternate executor in your will?

Naming an alternate executor in your will means you have a say as to who will act as your executor if your chosen representative is unable to fulfill their role.

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by Belle Wong, J.D.
updated May 11, 2023 ·  2min read

During the estate planning process, you've likely given careful consideration to whom you will choose to be the executor of your will. Your executor plays an important role as the person who makes sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death.

But you shouldn't stop at naming an executor. It's important also to name an alternate executor for your will.

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What is an alternate executor?

No one has an obligation to perform the role of executor for your will. While the person you name may be ready and willing to perform these duties today, things change over time. After your passing, they may be unable or unwilling to be your executor.

This is where it becomes important to have an alternate executor. An alternate executor is a person who would take on the duties of an executor if, for any reason, the person you've named cannot fulfill the role.

Should you have an alternate executor?

It's always a good idea to name an alternate executor, no matter how certain you are that your named executor will be willing to step in as your executor upon your death. Over time, many things can happen over which you have no control that may impact the person you've chosen to act as your executor. For example, your executor may:

  • Predecease you, or they may die at the same time as or shortly after your death
  • Develop an illness that makes it difficult for them to take on all of the responsibilities of an executor
  • Marry or take on other responsibilities that make it difficult for them also to take on the responsibilities
  • Become mentally incapable of performing the role of an executor
  • Need to relocate out of the country for work or family purposes, making it more challenging to act as your executor

These are just some of the events that could potentially prevent your named executor from stepping into the role of executor at the time of your death.

Advantages of an alternate executor

If you fail to name someone as an alternate executor in your will, and your named executor cannot serve this role, the probate court will step in and appoint someone. This means that all of your careful planning in choosing your executor will be wasted. The result will be the appointment of someone you may not have considered or don't feel would do a good job.

Naming an alternate executor means you can be assured that someone you trust can step in as executor if need be. If this happens, your alternate executor will have the same rights and responsibilities as the original executor.

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Belle Wong, J.D.

About the Author

Belle Wong, J.D.

Belle Wong, is a freelance writer specializing in small business, personal finance, banking, and tech/SAAS. She spends h… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.