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Reconsidering Your Role in Others’ Estate Plans (How to Say No)

Apr 01, 2020 03:29PM ● By Jeffrey Hall

Jeffrey S. Hall, MBA, CPA, Esq.

Reconsidering Your Role in Others’ Estate Plans (How to Say No)

By Trust/Estate Attorney Jeffrey Hall, CPA, Esq.


A person wearing a suit and tie smiling at the cameraDescription automatically generatedIt is important to think carefully about your ability or willingness to serve as an executor or trustee for someone else. If a family member or friend has asked you to serve as the executor of his or her estate or as trustee of a trust he or she is creating, there are a number of factors you should consider before accepting either of these important roles.


What to Consider Before Accepting the Role of Executor or Trustee First, keep in mind that you will be in a position of trust and will be held to a high standard of care when carrying out your responsibilities, and if you breach that duty of care, you could be personally liable to the estate or trust or to the beneficiaries. Second, you should consider the complexity of the deceased person’s estate or trust and, in the case of an executor, the complexity of the probate system in your state. Third, think about personal issues. Do you live too far away to carry out your duties without substantial inconvenience and expense? After considering these factors, if you decide you do not want to be the executor or trustee, the next steps depend upon the stage at which you decline that role.


Saying No to an Executorship or Trusteeship Before death occurs If someone asks you to serve as their executor or you find out that you have been named as executor in someone’s will, you should simply communicate what an honor it is to be asked to fulfill that role but let them know that you are unable to accept. There is no formal legal procedure to follow when declining to act as an executor.


After death but before formal appointment The law may vary from state to state, but, typically, if the person who named you as executor has died but the court has not yet formally appointed you as executor, you should notify the beneficiaries or heirs of the estate of your intention to renounce the role of executor, fill out and sign a “declination” form, and file the form in the probate court that handles the estate.


Resignation after acceptance of executorship If you have been formally appointed as the executor by the probate court but wish to resign, you must file a petition for removal with the probate court. Until a new executor is appointed, you will continue to have a duty to protect the estate.


After the trust is created but before acceptance Very similar to state rules below.


Give Us a Call We can help you determine whether to accept or decline a role in someone else’s estate plan by providing a thorough explanation of what is involved and the correct method for declining or resigning that role if you so choose. If you have already taken on the role of trustee or executor, you need to check with us to make sure that you follow all the proper steps to avoid possible liability for failing to fulfill your fiduciary duties. Consult with your neighborhood estate planning attorney, Jeffrey Hall. You may visit his website at or call (925) 230-9002. We are a veteran owned, veteran friendly law firm.


Disclaimer: this article is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice nor the establishment of an attorney-client relationship.