Co-Executors: Can One Executor Act Without the Other?

Written by Fraser Stewart
Reading time 4 minutes
Co-Executors: Can One Executor Act Without the Other? image

When you are writing your will, you also have to pick an executor who is in charge of carrying out your wishes. An executor does not just have to be one person though; you can have co-executors who act together. In this article, we will discuss why you may choose to have co-executors and if they can act independently.

What Is an Executor of the Will?

The executor of the will carries out all the administrative duties of your estate after your death. It is a large responsibility, and the executor is bound by law to handle the estate as per the stipulations of the will. The executor must also act lawfully and ensure all estate taxes and debts are paid. Some of the duties of an executor are:

The Benefits of Co-Executors

As you can see from the list above, there are a lot of tasks an executor needs to do, and it can be a lot of work to leave to one person. Many people decide to appoint a few executors to divide the work between themselves. It lightens the load on an individual person and alleviates their stress. By having joint executors, you can assemble people with a range of skills needed to handle the process.

Another benefit of having co-executors is that it offers an extra layer of accountability, making it less likely that the co-executors will not carry out your wishes. If the co-executors do not know each other or one of them is a professional, then it is less likely that they will go against your wishes in the will. This is particularly important if you have made “controversial” decisions in your will, like cutting someone out or leaving all your money to charity.

One of the main benefits of co-executors is that you can have a legal or tax professional (or both) act as co-executor with a friend. This gives them the assistance they need to handle their duties and gives them someone to turn to if they have questions. The professionals can handle a lot of the complex legwork like paperwork and taxes so that they are done correctly, and you still have a loved one as the face of your estate to handle the more personal details.

How to Pick Co-Executors

The first rule of picking co-executors is that you need to pick someone you trust. Trust is key because you need to trust that they are organised enough to handle all of the tasks required and trust that they will carry out your wishes.

Next, you need to decide if you want to hire a professional to act as one of the executors. There are no rules as to who can be executors; you can choose what is best for you and your needs. That being said, if you can afford to, we would recommend hiring a solicitor or a tax professional as one of the executors. That will help to ensure everything is above board. They can also offer a lot of assistance with the sheer amount of admin that needs to be done.

If you decide to pick more than one co-executor that you know, then you should ensure they can work together well. Disagreements can greatly reduce the effectiveness of co-executors and can make the process more complex than it needs to be.

You should also have a discussion with people you ask to be executors to ensure they are willing to carry out the task. This is another reason why co-executors can be beneficial. If circumstances change between you creating your will and your death, there are still people who can act as executors. Some of your named executors may have passed away before you or live overseas. They may also not want to act as your executor anymore because their life circumstances do not afford the time or energy required to be an executor.

How Many Co-Executors Should I Have?

As many as you want. There can be such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen, so you should avoid naming too many co-executors. However, to ensure you still have enough people to act as co-executors, you can name alternatives who will be joint executors in the event that one or more of your preferred co-executors cannot perform their duties. For example, your co-executors would ideally live near each other because they will have paperwork that they both need to sign.

Can Joint Executors Act Alone?

No, a co-executor cannot act alone unless the other steps down either temporarily or permanently. However, the joint executors can divide the duties between them in order to get them done quicker and play to each executor’s strengths. All of the paperwork will need the signature of all of the co-executors, so there is no opportunity for one executor to go rogue without the others realising.

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