One of the questions I commonly get when helping a client with their will is whether they can or should name more than one executor to their estate in Connecticut. There are many reasons a person may consider naming more than one executor and the answer to the question depends on the circumstances.
Most often this question comes up because the client has more than one child and they don’t want to name just one child as executor and alienate the others. Even if one child is clearly the best choice, such as when one sibling is fiscally responsible and another is not, this is a difficult choice for many people. Another situation that arises is when a surviving spouse would be the natural choice as executor but he or she is in frail health or otherwise not fully capable of the task.
Being an Executor is a Tough Responsibility
When it comes to whether to name all of one’s children as executors or just one, it’s important to remember that this is a position of significant responsibility. Often people get caught up on the belief that it’s an honor to be named someone’s executor. While this can be the case, it’s an honor that often comes with some challenging tasks and tough decisions to make. An executor must follow some pretty strict rules in probating a person’s estate and failure to follow those rules or making serious mistakes can result in legal consequences and personal financial liability. If a probate judge thinks one or more of your executors aren’t fiscally responsible enough to handle the job or are too distracted by the affairs of their own life, the judge is likely to remove them as executor and may appoint someone else as administrator. This can be more humiliating to a son or daughter than not being named as executor in the first place because it will be done in a public hearing and the record of it will also be a matter of public record.
Additionally, if multiple executors are named, the executors must all act in unison and agree on decisions unanimously. All executors will have to apply to probate. They’ll have to all sign any deeds or titles to transfer assets. They’ll all have to sign the various forms, tax returns and other paperwork. And they’ll all be liable for bills and debts of the state and for any damage or loss to any assets. This necessity to agree on everything and work in unison can cause huge delays if it’s difficult to get them all together or if they’re prone to disagreements. In extreme cases an executor may need to be removed by the court in order to get things done and complete the probate process in a timely manner. These sorts of situations can cause serious resentment between sibling-executors that could last for years.
Naming a Co-Executor to Aid the Primary Executor
One strategy that has been used successfully when a potential executor is not fully capable of the task is to name an attorney or other trusted advisor as co-executor. This approach ensures that someone is named who can ensure that probate is completed timely and with minimal risk of error while being impartial and fair to all beneficiaries. By naming an attorney or trusted advisor as co-executor, rather than another family member or friend who may have an interest in the estate, the co-executor is more likely to defer to the preference of the primary executor in making decisions rather than insisting on doing things his or her own way.
A similar approach is to name the family member as executor but require, in your will, that the person hire an attorney to assist them. You can even name your preferred attorney in your will and set aside funds to pay the attorney, if you desire to do so. This can often alleviate doubts by your executor and beneficiaries as to whether hiring a professional is a prudent use of estate funds or which professional to hire.
Get Help Determining Who Should be Executor of Your Estate
Deciding who to name as the executor of your estate and whether to name one or more co-executors can be difficult. There are many factors to consider and, in the end, you want to be as fair as possible to everyone, which means ensuring your estate is handled properly. The Bloomfield, CT probate attorneys at Weatherby & Associates have extensive experience helping Connecticut families resolve issues of their estates and assist in writing wills that are satisfactory and fair to all involved. Perhaps most importantly, the estate planning and probate attorneys at Weatherby & Associates, PC will provide advice and counsel to you so that you can make the best decision for your personal situation and wishes