When a resident of California dies, all the decedent’s possessions, including physical property, bank accounts and financial holdings, become part of his or her estate. Those who create a will before death choose beneficiaries of the estate and how to distribute assets among them.

Most wills also appoint an executor. The executor is responsible for managing the estate after death, including paying outstanding taxes or debts and distributing the remaining assets of the estate to beneficiaries.

Choosing a family member as executor

An executor does not have to be someone familiar with estate law. Many people name family and next of kin as executor. According to FindLaw, it is critical to select someone responsible, honest and organized to be the estate’s administrator. If an appointed administrator is unsure about how to proceed, he or she can seek help from an estate lawyer.

Selecting a family member to serve as executor may have unintended consequences. Close relatives who were not chosen may feel slighted or passed over by the decedent, which could lead to disagreements between beneficiaries and possibly a will contest.

Estates with no appointed executor

In some cases, the decedent may pass away before creating a will or appointing an executor. According to the Judicial Council of California, state probate law provides a list specifying the order of priority when assigning administrative duties to a relative. In most cases, the law assigns estate administration to the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner. If the spouse or partner dies at the same time or declines the appointment, one of the decedent’s children becomes the administrator.