One Executor- Or Two?

One of the most important things people can do when planning their future is to plan their will.  It gives them the power over how their hard earned money will be spent and who will receive it.  A necessary part of creating your will is choosing an executor/trix (also called a personal representative). The executor is the person who carries out the instructions of your will.  It should be someone you trust.  But what if the person you pick doesn’t follow what your will says?  What if your executor steals some of your money from the people you wanted it to go to?  What if the executor doesn’t do anything?  Sometimes executors are not motivated to carry out the wishes of the deceased and will just ignore the will and the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries have some ways of monitoring what the executor does, but that can be an imperfect solution.

One way people will try to decrease the likelihood of their executor stealing their money or not doing their job as executor is to appoint two.  It may be easier for two people to split the work of the executor, and that way each has to report to the other.  Many times, they will both have to sign a document before it becomes effective, such as an agreement to sell your home.  Oftentimes, people will choose two siblings, or a sibling and a friend, or two friends.  There are endless possible combinations.

But what if your executors don’t agree? What if one thinks they should hire an attorney, and one doesn’t? What if they want to hire different attorneys?  What if they want to use different banks for your accounts?  What if your will could be interpreted in two separate ways and both refuse to budge from their interpretation?

There are things you can put in the will to try to limit conflict between your executors.  You can pick one who has the controlling vote.  You could always appoint three executors and require a majority.  Or you could state that your executors should consult with a neutral party (such as the estate’s attorney, or a mediator if the executors can’t agree on which attorney to hire).

There’s nothing wrong with just having one executor, as long as it is someone you trust and someone who understands the basics of the job they will be taking on. It can be more efficient to have just one executor so there are no disputes. There’s also nothing wrong with appointing two or more executors.  As stated previously, being an executor can be a lot of work and it can be easier to have someone to share the responsibilities with.  If you do chose to have two or more, you should put some sort of mechanism in your will to give your executors guidance for what to do if they disagree.

Regardless of whether you choose to have one or two executors, it’s usually a good idea to include a successor executor.  This is a person who would take over if your executor dies before you or just doesn’t want to do the job.  However you construct your will, you should always let your executors know that you picked them to do the job.