Downs Law Firm, P.C.

co-executors and co-trustees

Are Co-Executors or Co-Trustees a Good Idea?

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Acting as an executor can be a tremendous amount of responsibility and a time-consuming duty.

Is it a good idea to have multiple children listed as co-executors or co-trustees for your estate plan? Probate cases and trust administrations can get somewhat confusing when there are multiple executors.

What are the pros and cons of choosing one child to act as your executor or trustee instead of selecting more to act together?

nj.com’s recent article asks “I’m planning my will. Is it bad to have more than one executor?”

The article explains that the duty of the executor is to gather all the decedent’s assets, pay any outstanding debts and liabilities, and then account for and distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries, according to the instructions in the decedent’s will.

The executor or trustee is allowed to hire professionals and others to help with tasks, like completing a decedent’s final income tax return or preparing the home for sale.

When you have co-executors or co-trustees appointed, these tasks can be assigned to each person to lessen the burden of the many duties and responsibilities that each has. Each may bring different skills to the table, and that can lead to better decisions.

On the downside, naming them together won’t improve things. If those appointed can’t work together easily and without strife, appointing multiple siblings can make the administration of an estate much more difficult due to arguments, conflicts of interest, one sibling taking the lead to the resentment of the others, or one executor undermining another executor’s actions. When more chefs are in the kitchen, more errors and miscommunications can occur. Usually, one of the two does the lion’s share of the work, and that can cause its own problems and resentments.

In situations where the siblings don’t get along, designating one of them as executor can cause hard feelings and conflict. It’s not uncommon for those siblings who aren’t named as executor to complain about every decision made by the named executor or delay in the administration of the estate.

What about more than two? We suggest NEVER. It compounds the delays and costs of administration.

If co-executors or co-trustees are named, the documents should be clear that they can act alone to sign documents and/or checks on behalf of the estate. Requiring all acts together is burdensome and inefficient. If someone is not trusted enough to act alone, don’t name them to manage anything.

Speak with your estate planning attorney about your family dynamics of your candidates for co-executors and co-trustees,  and get their opinion about what would be best in your personal situation.

Reference: nj.com (May 22, 2019) “I’m planning my will. Is it bad to have more than one executor?”