Hiring a professional executor is particularly useful for non-US heirs. Most state rules make it tough for you to be a US executor if you are not from or currently living the US.
US Executor Qualifications
Many states outright prohibit non-US citizens or residents from being a US executor. Some states are a bit more nuanced. New York allows a non-citizen to be executor, but only if they’re also a New York resident. You must prove that you are a New York resident not only when applying for executorship, but also whenever you are acting as the executor.
For example, we have a non-US citizen heir who moved to New York for the purpose of being an executor. Then in the past two years, he moved out of state. When he tried to use his letters at the co-op, the co-op would not accept his letters because he was no longer a New York resident. In order for your letters to be valid, you must stay a New York resident.
Can you be a US executor if you live abroad?
Sometimes it can be done, but it’s challenging. New York may allow it, but only if you have a US co-executor. This is a pain because it means more paperwork during probate. For anything that requires a signature, you’re basically doing the work twice. If you are overseas, you’d have to go to an apostille or a consulate. Just the postage alone to sign each document can be quite expensive.
Further, even if the court allows it, you now have an overseas co-executor who has to get US notarizations, which is often a frustrating process. And more, the co-executor may even have to fly into New York for mundane tasks. You’d think that in 2022, you’d be able to accomplish these tasks online or over the phone. Nope. There are a surprising number of tasks that require in-person visits. Banks and co-ops are two of the biggest culprits.
We have a situation where a retail store in Colorado is part of the estate. The store security system won’t speak to the executor, unless it is in-person. Also, the bank in Colorado requires an in-person visit to close the decedent’s account.
What if the non-US court has appointed an Executor?
Many ask: what if I’m a non-US citizen, non-resident, but I’m the court appointed executor in Spain, England, etc. of an estate with US assets? Then, can I be a US executor?
No, because the probate procedure will be slightly different. It’s called “ancillary probate.” All of the rules of about citizenship and residency discussed above still apply. Even if you are a citizen/resident of Spain and are appointed there, you still need a US co-executor. Better yet, hire a professional US executor to collect the US assets.
Because of the complexity of being a non-US citizen executor, people seek our help to make the process much easier. We work with international heirs often, and we are familiar with administering these types of estates.
If you want to learn more about professional executors, check out my book, “How to Hire an Executor,” available on Amazon.