An executor is the person appointed by will to oversee the administration of a probate estate. Although an executor can work with an attorney, an executor is generally in charge of arranging for the will to be admitted to probate, organizing the decedent’s personal property, and making distributions to heirs and beneficiaries in accordance with the will. Clients often ask us whether they should appoint co-executors. This issue often comes up when a client has more than one child and does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings by only naming one child over another. So are co-executors a good idea?
The Case Against Co-Executors
Believe it or not, naming co-executors simply to avoid offending a loved one can cause extra drama. First, if co-executors are named in the will, the co-executors must work together and make major decisions unanimously. For example, co-executors must both sign court documents, property deeds, financial account and investment documents, tax returns, and title transfers. This can lead to delays in administrations and disagreements among the executors, especially if the co-executors do not live in the same area or are prone to squabbling. In the worst case, disagreements between co-executors may lead to court action if one executor feels that the other executor is not doing his or her job properly. Since the point of a will is to ensure your estate is swiftly distributed in accordance with your wishes, appointing co-executors can backfire.
Family dynamics are complicated. When it comes to avoiding hurt feelings while also ensuring competent estate administration, the simplest course of action is often the best. Discussing with children the reasons why one child has been chosen as executor can help family members understand that the choice is logical, not personal. Naming the other children as alternate executors who would act if your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve or asking your other children to play an important role at your funeral can also ease tension among family members.
The Case For Co-Executors
Business Interests & Elderly Executors
The decision to name co-executors is not right for everyone. However, co-executors are especially useful when a testator wants to appoint his or her elderly spouse as executor and knows he or she may need assistance in handling the probate process. In this situation a younger co-executor is a smart choice to ensure competent administration of the estate by sharing the duties associated with estate administration.
Co-executors are also common when the testator owns all or part of a business. In that case, naming a co-executor familiar with the business such as an attorney or business partner can help ensure that the business interests are maintained.
Deciding who to name as executor can be difficult. Feel free to call our office to talk to Kirsten for assistance.