Duties for a Co-Executor of a Will

by Anna Assad

    The last will of a deceased person contains the provisions and terms for inheritance of his assets after death. A will names an executor, the person who controls the estate, but the deceased person can name more than one person to fulfill the duty. "Co-executors" is the term used to describe multiple persons named as the executor in a will. All co-executors share the same authority over the estate; however, the duties are more involved, as the executors must work as a team and are all held responsible for the estate as a group.

    Petition for Probate With Other Executor(s)

    A will that names two or more executors and stipulates the executors must act together cannot be probated unless all of the named persons are presenting the petition. A co-executor may voluntarily give up her right to act as such by filing a signed renunciation of the duties in probate court, allowing the remaining executor to apply for authority alone.

    Oversee the Estate

    The co-executors are jointly responsible for handling the estate's affairs. Bank accounts and other financial savings or plans are accessed and the funds gathered by both executors. The assets of the deceased person must be preserved and protected. Both executors may be found liable for damage to or loss of an asset that was not secured by the executors but would have benefited the estate's heirs, such as a house that went into foreclosure because the mortgage was not paid.

    Pay Final Debts

    Each co-executor is responsible for paying the final debts of the deceased person, including bills, funeral expenses and medical costs. The executors have the right to contest claims made by creditors against the estate in court. Estate tax may be owed to federal and state taxing authorities; the co-executors must prepare and sign final tax returns for the deceased person.

    Distribute Estate Shares

    The will's terms dictate how assets and personal items of the deceased person are distributed.The co-executors must comply with the directions and obtain proof that each asset was given to the correct recipient; a signed released from each will beneficiary is typically used to evidence a will transfer. The co-executors may have to sign and execute a deed, the legal document used to show ownership of real estate, if the deceased person owned real estate.

    Monitor Other Executor

    Each co-executor is equally obligated to ensure the estate is handled properly and in a timely manner. If one co-executor won't cooperate or is suspected of mishandling the estate's assets through fraud or negligence, the other co-executor must file in the probate court to have her evaluated and possibly removed from her duties. The failure of a co-executor to intervene if the other executor is not meeting her obligations can result in both executors being held personally liable for losses to the estate.

    About the Author

    Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.