Designating Co-Executors of a Will

It’s never too early to start estate planning. By organizing your assets and making these decisions now, you can ensure your heirs are protected and have peace of mind in the future. As part of your plan, you may create a will. Choosing who to appoint as your executor is an important step. Can you designate a co-executor to help administer your estate? Should you?

An executor must be capable of handling important and often complicated obligations after you are gone. If you are considering naming co-executors of a will, you need to understand the positive and negative situations that may arise. An estate planning attorney at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C, can explain the executor’s duties and responsibilities to help you make the best decision.

What are the Responsibilities of an Executor or Co-executor?

Your executor plays an important role in your overall estate planning. Also called a personal representative in Michigan, an executor is responsible for administering your estate. This person is responsible for ensuring that your last wishes are honored and your estate assets are distributed according to the terms of your will. The executor must gather all estate assets, pay related debts and taxes, and close your estate when everything is resolved.

In general, an executor is responsible for handling the legal affairs of the decedent (the person who signed the will). The executor’s duties include doing the following:

  • File the final will and open an estate in the probate court where the decedent last resided,

  • Find, compile, and organize the estate assets and confirm any estate debts,

  • Notify the heirs and creditors about the estate proceeding,

  • Help resolve any claims filed against the estate,

  • Pay all estate debts according to probate law which determines which debts are paid first,

  • Prepare and file any needed tax returns,

  • Distribute the estate assets to the heirs according to the will instructions,

  • File court documents which may include inventories, receipts, and reports, and

  • Finalize the estate once the probate court allows.

Since the executor bears so much responsibility, you should name a trustworthy and responsible person to act as your executor. You may also wonder if it would be wise to name a co-executor. Let’s review the pros and cons of naming co-executors of a will to help you decide.

Benefits of Naming a Co-Executor

There are some valid reasons to consider naming co-executors of a will. It is legal and you may have a situation that warrants a co-executor. However, in our experience, naming co-executors usually creates more problems than choosing one person to act. Here are a few situations where a co-executor could be helpful.

Executors with Different Skill Sets Could Resolve Complicated Issues

Maybe you own a business and your family is not involved in the company. You may consider naming your business partner as a co-executor to help your family resolve the business aspects of your estate.

Your Surviving Spouse is Not Fully Capable

If your spouse may need some help fulfilling the executor duties due to age, stress, or other concerns you may want a co-executor of a will to take some pressure off your spouse while keeping them involved in resolving your affairs.

With Two Adult Children, You Don’t Want to Offend Either

Most people name an adult child to act as executor, but what if you have two or more children? To avoid family confrontations, you may designate two children as co-executors to avoid hard feelings. However, as mentioned below, when co-executors of a will are named, you may still create family problems.

Disadvantages of Appointing a Co-Executor of a Will

While your heart may be in the right place, your choice of executor should not be based on hurt feelings or ensuring everyone has equal say in administering your estate. In our experience, it is usually better to make some difficult decisions early and name only one person to act as your executor. Here are some reasons you should not consider a co-executor of a will.

Co-Executors Must do Everything Together

Co-executors must file all documents together, sign checks together, prepare, sign, and file tax returns, and eventually close the estate together. If a co-executor is not available, these obligations can become burdensome and time-consuming.

Co-Executors Must Agree on all Decisions

If any aspect of the estate administration is in dispute and the co-executors take different positions on the issue, conflicting matters are submitted to the probate court for resolution. Estate litigation takes time to resolve and may incur legal fees which means the beneficiaries eventually receive less from the estate.

A Co-Executor Might Not Live Nearby

When choosing your executor, you should consider where they reside. For example, although your oldest child may be a financially responsible and fair person, if they live in another country, acting as your executor would be challenging. With many documents to sign, business to transact, and other local responsibilities, a local executor can help ensure a smooth estate administration.

Naming Co-Executors of a Will Could Cause Family Dissention

If one co-executor does not agree with the terms of the will, they could create family strife by blocking decisions and transactions. We recommend that you choose one executor and then explain your decision to everyone involved to avoid misunderstandings and compromised family relationships.

Can Co-Executors Act Independently?

The short answer is usually no. With co-executors of a will, they must both work together, sign documents together, and make joint decisions. This is one of the main reasons we don’t recommend a co-executor designation. Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to create a unique estate plan to address your concerns without relying on co-executors.

Can a Co-Executor Be Removed?

In some situations, it may be necessary to ask the probate court to remove a co-executor. This is a complicated process which takes time and costs money. Although not common, a co-executor could be removed from an estate administration if they are:

  • Not properly administering the will,

  • Intentionally causing extensive delay,

  • Not following the terms and provisions of the will,

  • Violating probate law, or

  • Otherwise refusing to comply with the requirements of a will executor.

To remove a co-executor, the other co-executor must petition the probate court. Related legal costs are paid from the estate assets which means fewer assets for the heirs in the long run.

The Estate Planning Attorneys at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras Can Help You Decide if You Should Appoint a Co-Executor

Estate planning is an important task involving many decisions. Every estate plan is different and you deserve a customized plan that protects your assets, your family, and your peace of mind. While we usually recommend avoiding a co-executor arrangement, we know each situation is different. Our estate planning team can explain the law and help you make the best decisions in your estate planning.

Call (248) 213-9514 or complete our simple online contact form to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated estate planning attorneys today.
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