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Should You Consider Co-Executors for Your Will?

One of the most common questions that is asked of me when I am meeting with clients to discuss the preparation of their Last Will and Testament is whether they can or should appoint two persons to act a the executors of their estates. The executor is the person named in the Last Will and Testament to handle the affairs of the estate. When more than one person is appointed as executor the are referred to as co-executors.

In almost all cases, when asked this question, my response to not to appoint co-executors but rather to appoint one person as the executor and then to name one or more other persons to act as alternate executors in the event that the person named as executor is unable to act as executor for any reason.

My rationale for this is that in most cases it is cumbersome to have to have two persons sign all of the documents and make the all of the decisions needed as part of the estate administration process. Having to circulate all documents to the two co-executors is time consuming and adds delay and costs to the administration process.

But, more than that, there is the potential that the two co-executors cannot agree with each other on how to handle the estate. In that instance, the estate may come to halt while the two co-executors try to resolve the issues with each other. In some cases, the two co-executors cannot resolve their issues and this usually results in a law suit by one co-executor against the other co-executor seeking to have one of them removed. Unfortunately, this often becomes a "blame game" with each co-executor claiming the other is not acting in the best interests of the estate. In reality this action could lead to a court removing both co-executors and appointing an independent person as substitute executor.

In fact, I am currently involved with three estates where this is happening. In one of the estates, the two co-executors have each retained their own attorneys, which will only add to the costs of administering the estate. In another, one of the co-executors is seeking to retain my office to pursue an action to remove the other co-executor. In the third estate the two co-executors are working together but due to the fact that each reside in other states, there have been delays and additional costs in administering the estate due to the need to circulate the required documents for both co-executors' signatures.

In short, in preparing your Last Will and Testament, it is my advice that you should only appoint one person to act as the executor and not appoint co-executors.