22 May Is it bad to have more than one executor?
Q. We have three grown children listed as co-executors of our wills for when we’ve both died. We’ve heard that it can get very confusing when probating a will when there are multiple executors. Are there any problems keeping all three as executors?
A. There are pros and cons to choosing one child to act as your executor versus choosing all three of your children to act together.
The duty of the executor is to collect the decedent’s assets, pay any debts and liabilities, and then account for and distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the decedent’s last will and testament, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.
She said the executor is permitted to hire professionals and/or others to assist him or her with tasks, such as filing a decedent’s final income tax return or cleaning out the home for sale.
Acting as an executor can be a tremendous amount of responsibility and a time-consuming duty, Romania said. Where multiple executors are appointed, the tasks can be divided among them lessening the burden.
“However, if the persons appointed cannot work together harmoniously, appointing the three of them may make administration of the estate more difficult due to arguments or one executor undermining what another executor may have done,” she said. “Unfortunately, in situations where the siblings do not get along, naming one as executor may also cause hard feelings and conflict resulting in the siblings who are not named as executor complaining about every decision made by the named executor or delays in the administration of the estate.”
Where there are multiple executors, the majority rules, thus to avoid deadlock it is always best to avoid naming an even number of executors, she said. Or you can name someone to act as a tie-breaker.
“Notwithstanding that majority rules, a few financial institutions and other third parties may insist on having all the executors sign documents and/or checks on behalf of the estate which will become burdensome where there are multiple executors,” she said. “Ultimately, naming one executor or multiple executors is a personal decision.”
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This story was originally published on May 22, 2019.
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