During the estate planning process, there are many decisions to make. But two big ones stand out: Choosing your beneficiary and executor of your will. As you're reviewing your options, you may wonder: "Can an executor of a will be a beneficiary?"
The simple answer is yes. However, there are important considerations to factor in before you make these decisions. Here's what to keep in mind as you're getting started.
What Is a Beneficiary?
A beneficiary is a person you name who receives your benefits after you pass. Naming beneficiaries is part of the estate planning process, but it's also common to designate one for life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Designating a beneficiary helps financial and insurance companies know who should receive your death benefit or account funds after you pass away, allowing the company to transfer payouts and funds to them quickly.
Here's a typical example: You've recently set up a final expense life insurance policy to cover burial and funeral expenses. When asked about the beneficiary, you name your spouse. After you pass, the death benefit from your life insurance policy will go to your spouse, as designated in the policy. Your spouse can then use those funds to help cover funeral costs, pay down debt or for other needs.
A beneficiary can be anyone. While it's common to name your spouse or children, you may designate a trust or charity, a close friend or other family members as beneficiaries, too.
What Is a Will Executor?
When you pass, your estate goes through a legal process called probate. The executor of a will is the person named to oversee the estate and handle the probate process. A court reviews your will and appoints your executor to pay outstanding bills or debts, file and pay taxes and distribute your assets as laid out in the will.
In general, there are few qualifications to be an executor of a will. For example, in most states, an executor is allowed to be anyone as long as they are 18 or older and have not committed felonies. However, in some states, there may be rules that your executor must not live in a different state.
Being the executor of a will is often time-consuming and potentially complex. The person named will need to oversee the payment of debts and taxes, transfer of assets, closing accounts and wrap up any other miscellaneous tasks for the estate.
Who Appoints a Beneficiary or an Executor?
If you have a will, you can choose who you want to serve in each role. So, can an executor of a will be a beneficiary? There are no specific rules against naming the same person as your beneficiary and will's executor. It's certainly possible for one person, such as a spouse or adult child, to be named as both the beneficiary and executor of your estate.
However, you may pass without a will. In that case, a court will name an executor and distribute any remaining assets (after paying bills, debts and taxes) to the next of kin per state laws. It's important to keep in mind that your next of kin, as decided by the court, may not be the person you wished to be your beneficiary, so having a will and estate plan is recommended.
Important Factors To Consider
There are some potential benefits to having your beneficiary and executor be the same person. For instance:
- They know you well and will keep your best interests at heart when following your wishes.
- It may be easier for them to notify others and locate assets than it would be for an outside administrator, which can help speed up the probate process.
- Your estate won't have to pay additional fees for an outside executor or administrator.
However, because managing the execution of your will may be complicated, it doesn't hurt to discuss the responsibilities with the person you're considering. Depending on the complexity of your estate, the number of beneficiaries and debts, it may be a stressful process to manage.
If the person you thought about designating as your executor isn't interested or doesn't feel comfortable doing it, you have options. For example, it's common for an accountant or attorney to perform the role.
Make the Best Choice for Your Needs
Discuss your thoughts with your loved ones as you work through the estate planning process. It helps to ensure everyone is on the same page, understands your wishes and feels comfortable in their respective roles. That can help make a potentially difficult time much less stressful for your family.