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Can you have two executors of your will?

Addison, IL |

My husband was told by his mother that his sister was appointed executor of her will-because you can only have one, so she says. He is concerned that when the time comes, there will be a power struggle on her estate. She doesn't have alot, a house and its contents. Will my husband have his input in the direction and distribution of personal items and the sale of the home? He and his sister have very different outlooks in life-and it may end up being a large cats nest with him being left out in left field with no say. I recommended he speak with his mother on this, but he wanted to make sure what exactly her being assigned as executor means.

Attorney Answers 7

Posted

Yes you can have co-executors on an estate. It sounds like your mother-in law does not wish that. She cannot be forced to do what she does not want to do. Your husband will not have the same input that the executor does have. Go with your husband and talk to a probabte attorney in your area. That way you can ask all the questions you desire and be sure the attorney has all the facts needed to accurately answer them. Good luck.

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Peggy M. Raddatz

Peggy M. Raddatz

Posted

probate

Posted

I am a NY attorney and cannot advise you as to your state's laws, but can provide certain general information that may be helpful to you. In NY and many other states, it is perfectly acceptable to have two executors (or, for that matter, three or four or five executors). Even if multiple executors is permitted under your state's laws (which I strongly suspect to be the case), it's not always wise -- in fact, it's rarely wise.

The "power struggle" that your husband fears would be far more likely if there are two executors who "have very different outlooks." A single executor will make the necessary decisions and her say will be the final say. Two warring executors only increases the time, trouble, and expense of administering estate assets. It sounds like his mother may well understand this.

I enjoyed your mixed metaphors ("a large cats nest with him being left out in left field"). Still, I was under the impression that cats don't build nests and that even if they did, the nest would not include a "left field."

Your suggestion that your husband speak with his mother is a bit too little too late. Your posting says that your husband "was told by his mother" of her decision as to the appointment of an executor. Do you really wish your husband to badger her until he gets his way? It is, after all, her will. And she can do what she wishes. And she has chosen to do what she wishes. Rather than bother his mother, your husband would do well to love and respect his mother and leave it at that. When your husband expresses discomfort about what will happen to his mom's modest assets, your job, as his wife, is to express support for him and, then, urge him to leave things alone.

As to what being assigned as executor means, it means that the executor will get to make any decisions that are necessary and then carry out the terms of the will -- a job that is made a lot more complicated if decisions have to be made by more than one person. As Mark Twain said, "A camel is a horse designed by a committee."

Good luck to you.

Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.

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His mother can appoint whoever she desires to be the executor. The executor administers the estate, but the terms of the will dictate how the estate is to be distributed. Co-executors are allowed, however that decision is up to your mother-in-law.

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Posted

Yes-Co-executors are allowed.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.

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Posted

As already noted, she could have named co-executors. That is sometimes discouraged as it sets up the possibility that the executors would not agree, complicating the administration of the estate. So, she may have interpreted her attorney's guidance as an absolute. Another possibility, statutory powers of attorney do not allow co-agents. Perhaps she is confusing terms. Finally, she may simply have made a decision that is up to her.

The executor will have to put into effect the mother's desires, but there will be some discretion on how to handle various matters. Interested parties will have an opportunity to intervene if the executor is acting outside the scope of that discretion.

I suggest that your husband work with a probate attorney when the time comes.

The scope of this space does not afford an opportunity to adequately advise you. The response provided is intended to be informative, but not final. You are advised to arrange a consultation at which all facts and documents can be explored and terms for representation agreed. An attorney-client relationship must be formally established.

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Posted

You can have co-executors appointed in a will, but that often proves to be problematic as they must work in concert. You do not specify how the will provides for distribution of your mother's assets, so it is difficult to be more specific.

The executor is charged with making sure that the will is filed, and that a probate estate is opened and administered, if necessary.

I will also mention that your husband should not attempt to influence his mother to change her estate plan for his benefit, because this could pose problems in the future. His mother does not ever relinquish the ability to determine how her assets are distributed in the event of her death.

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Posted

Your mother in law can appoint whomever she wants to act as an executor and she can appoint co-executors to act together. The executor will have full authority to handle the distribution per the will. If your husband is not the executor he will not have any say in that regard. Again this is your mother-in-law's decision to make.

Cynthia E. Garcia is licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois only. No response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice or create an attorney/client or other contractual relationship.

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