When it comes to planning your estate, choosing who to name as your executor is an important choice to make. Your executor has a range of duties, including paying your debts, navigating your estate through the probate court and distributing your assets to your heirs. It’s a big job, so you may consider splitting the responsibilities by naming two co-executors. However, doing so may complicate things more than it helps, depending on your situation. We’ll discuss why you may want to name co-executors, as well as the pros and cons of such a strategy.
Why Name Two Executors?
There are a few different reasons why you might want two different executors in charge of managing your estate after you pass away. You may want to name your spouse as executor but worry that it will be too big of a job for him or her to handle alone. In this instance, it may be beneficial to also name a child or an attorney as co-executor.
Additionally, you may have two children, and you’re worried that choosing one as executor over the other will cause tension and potentially breed resentment. While choosing both as co-executors may also be a path with potential tension, it’s something many parents consider.
Another scenario where co-executors may be attractive is if you have a wide variety of assets. Such a variety would require different sets of expertise to effectively manage. You could have one executor who can take the lead managing real estate holdings, for instance, and another to primarily administer bank accounts and other more traditional assets.
Benefits of Naming Co-Executors
One benefit of naming co-executors is that you have protection in case one of them doesn’t survive you. Of course, the same could be accomplished by simply naming an alternate executor.
In more abstract terms, naming co-executors can potentially make the job seem a bit less daunting. Each executor can take heart in the fact that, while the job may not be any smaller, they don’t have to handle all of it alone. If the co-executors agree on how to approach the probate process, having two or more people on the job can work out quite well. It’s when the co-executors disagree that problems can arise.
Disadvantages of Naming Co-Executors
In general, having co-executors is a less efficient way of going about the probate process. All co-executors are equally responsible for completing every part of the process. This means that everyone needs to receive authority from the probate court. Everyone will need to sign every form, and everyone needs to make every decision unanimously. It’s certainly possible that all the co-executors you name see eye to eye throughout the probate process. Nevertheless, more cooks in the kitchen generally leads to inefficiency.
If your co-executors run into any significant disagreements, that can potentially derail the probate process significantly. Since all decisions need to be made unanimously, progress can halt completely if co-executors can’t reconcile differences in opinion.
In extreme circumstances, disagreements can escalate to the point that one co-executor tries to remove another on grounds of incompetence or misconduct. This can lead to significant delays in the probate process, which can be difficult on your family and other beneficiaries.
How to Name Co-Executors
The actual act of naming co-executors is quite simple. When you are creating your will, all you have to do is stipulate that you would like to have multiple executors and name them. If you want to make absolutely sure that you’ve prepared everything correctly, it might be a good idea to consult an estate planning attorney. This can also be a helpful way to ensuring you’re abiding by the rules specific to your state and county.
In broad terms, there’s a reason why having co-executors is less common than letting one person handle the job. Coordination between multiple people and the necessity of unanimity can drag out the probate process and potentially create unnecessary tension and disagreement. If you decide to name co-executors, make sure you’re being thoughtful about the decision. Doing it just to avoid hurt feelings between siblings may cause more harm than it avoids. While there are certainly situations where co-executors can succeed, more often than note you’re better off just naming a sole executor.
Tips for Planning Your Estate
- Naming your executor is a big decision, but it’s only one of many that comes with estate planning. If the whole process is becoming overwhelming, you may benefit from a conversation with a financial advisor. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can connect you with up to three qualified financial advisors in your area. Many advisors specialize in estate and legacy planning, so you can rest easy knowing your plan is solid.
- Having an accurate picture of your wealth is crucial when you’re planning your estate. You’ll want to consider bank accounts, securities, cash and retirement accounts. You can use SmartAsset’s 401(k) calculator to estimate the value of your 401(k) plan when you retire.
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