Can There Be Three Executors of a Will?

by Phil M. Fowler

    Probate judges oversee the appointment of estate executors and have the power to appoint multiple executors if that is what the deceased person instructed in his will. State and federal laws impose no restrictions on the number of executors who can collectively manage a probate administration. However, a probate judge may not appoint three executors unless the decedent had a sound reason for making this request, as multiple executors may give rise to potential conflicts during the probate process.

    Benefits

    Probate judges generally comply with the desires of decedents when requests are expressed in a valid will presented to the judge. If the decedent expressed the desire for three executors in his will, the probate judge will likely honor that request. This is particularly true when the estate can benefit from the appointment of multiple executors. For example, three individuals, each with unique skills, may be appointed to oversee specific aspects of the decedent's estate, such as real estate investment, financial analysis and debt resolution.

    Split Duties

    When a probate judge appoints multiple executors, the judge can implement this relationship in a variety of ways. He can require the three executors to work together and unanimously agree on all decisions or give each executor specific authority over a distinct portion of the estate.

    Drawbacks

    Problems can arise if the probate judge requires the unanimous consent of all three executors on any decision regarding the estate. If a decision fails to garner unanimous consent, the probate judge will make the decision, but only after a costly hearing. A better approach is generally to allow the three executors to make independent decisions or, at least, make decisions by a simple majority vote.

    Voluntary Service

    A court will only appoint three executors if all three individuals voluntarily consent to serve as co-executors. Because of the potential management problems that may arise in a multiple-executor probate, being appointed as one of three executors may not be a desirable situation. Probate judges never force an individual to serve as executor, so if three willing individuals are not available, the judge may allow probate to continue with just one or two executors.

    References & Resources

    • "Plan Your Estate"; Denis Clifford; 2008

    About the Author

    The Constitution Guru has worked as a writer and editor for "BYU Law Review" and "BYU Journal of Public Law." He is an experienced attorney with a law degree and a B.A. degree in history with an emphasis on U.S. Constitutional history, both earned at Brigham Young University.

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