When you are drafting your Last Will and Testament, one of the decisions you will have to make is naming an executor – the person responsible for administering your estate. Some may want to name two executors in their will. There are benefits to this approach, as well as potential challenges.
An Executor’s Role
An estate executor has several duties, including navigating the probate process, paying any debts, gathering and distributing assets to your beneficiaries, paying taxes, and closing the estate. With co-executors, the two individuals share both the authority and responsibilities. They must act together on all decision-making and information-sharing. The co-executors must probate the will together, as well as sign any paperwork (ex: deeds, titles, financial accounts, tax returns) together. They are both liable for any damage or loss of assets.
Advantages of Having Co-Executors
There are several advantages to having estate co-executors. First, the co-executors can divide up the work, which can make their responsibilities a little less daunting. If they have questions or an issue comes up, they can consult the other co-executor for help. Second, the testator (the person who created the will) might name co-executors based on their skill set and strengths. So, for example, let’s say the testator has a wide variety of different assets. He or she might select a co-executor with a background in real estate to handle the physical property and another co-executor with a knowledge of digital assets to handle all of their online materials. Third, the testator might name co-executors so one can handle the family-related matters and the other can handle the business-related issues. For people who own and operate a business, it’s common to name a spouse or child as co-executor to handle one part of the estate, and a business partner or lawyer as the other co-executor to help with business decisions. These are some situations in which it’s beneficial to name co-executors; however, selecting two executors can create some challenges.
Potential Challenges of Co-Executors
Co-executors must work together in unison. This can create some challenges if the executors do not live near each other or if they tend to disagree with each other. First, there are several documents related to the transfer of property or required by the probate court. Both co-executors will likely need to sign these documents. If the co-executors do not live near each other, this can cause delays in completing and executing certain paperwork. Second, if the co-executors disagree over the estate, this can cause serious issues and potentially derail the probate process. Common co-executor disagreements include:
- A long-standing conflict that’s unrelated to the estate, but creates a rift between the co-executors
- Co-executors simply do not get along with each other
- Disagreements over shared responsibilities and one person taking over the role
- Arguments over one party failing to do their share of the work
- Co-executor feeling like they do not have the time or knowledge to serve as co-executor
- Disagreements over the value of certain estate property
While there are potential challenges with naming co-executors, with proper estate planning and communication, many of these issues can be handled ahead of time.
Have Additional Questions? Contact Our Estate Planning Team
Selecting the appropriate executor or co-executors is a big decision. But it’s only one of the aspects of estate planning. If you have any additional questions or would like to speak with someone on Brian M. Douglas & Associates’ estate planning team, please contact us at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact form. We would be happy to help.