Joint Executors of Wills in Pennsylvania

By Valerie Stevens

An executor is the person named in a will to administer the estate when the will maker, or testator, dies. An executor should be trustworthy and financially responsible, as his role includes paying all the bills involved in the estate, distributing property, communicating with beneficiaries and heirs, and filing forms with the probate court, the IRS and other agencies. Pennsylvania law does not restrict the number of people you can name as joint executors.

An executor is the person named in a will to administer the estate when the will maker, or testator, dies. An executor should be trustworthy and financially responsible, as his role includes paying all the bills involved in the estate, distributing property, communicating with beneficiaries and heirs, and filing forms with the probate court, the IRS and other agencies. Pennsylvania law does not restrict the number of people you can name as joint executors.

Benefits

Naming two or more people to serve as joint executors allows the co-executors to spread out the duties involved in settling an estate. Some will makers name two people to act as joint executors to ensure that one person has financial expertise and the other is a family member or someone close to the family. This enables the expert to handle the financial aspects of probate and the other person to distribute property and communicate with the family. Another situation that might call for joint executors is when a primary beneficiary of substantial assets lives somewhere other than Pennsylvania; an executor who lives in the same state as the beneficiary would be able to conveniently meet with her as necessary.

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Disadvantages

While a father might name joint executors to avoid offending one of his children, the decision could cause family resentments. If the children disagree during the course of probate administration, a long-term family rift could develop. Joint executors might also disagree on asset valuations or have trouble communicating with each other, resulting in confusion and duplication of efforts. For these reasons, it might be better to name just one executor, but also name alternative executors should the named executor wish to step down or is no longer able to continue in his role as executor.

Liability

In some cases, a joint executor can be held liable for the actions of the other executor. The executor’s responsibilities include paying the bills of the estate according to priorities set by Pennsylvania state law. If there is not enough money to pay all the debts, the creditors are paid proportionately. The executor is not responsible for the payment of any costs or debts of the estate unless he makes a mistake related to the estate. However, if a joint executor makes a mistake or mismanages the estate, the joint executor could be held accountable. Pennsylvania law requires a joint executor to make a claim against the other person if necessary to protect the assets of the estate. State law also allows for the executor to purchase a liability insurance policy at the expense of the estate to protect himself against liability issues in connection with the estate.

Fees

Pennsylvania law allows an executor to be paid a fair and reasonable fee for administering the estate; this might be established in the will. While state law is not specific about the amount an executor can be paid, three percent is the general rule approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Fees of and up to five percent are within the guidelines established by the court. Joint executors generally would be expected to split the fee, although many executors of small estates waive the fee.

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An Executor's Duties to a Beneficiary

References

Related articles

Executors in Wills

The executor is the person appointed by the court to administer an estate. Usually the court appoints the executor named in the will, unless that person is disqualified. If you do not name an executor in your will, the court will decide whom to appoint. Avoid the court making this important decision by choosing a qualified executor and alternative, thoroughly discussing the executor’s substantial responsibilities with the people you plan to name and making sure they are comfortable accepting the job.

What if the Executor of a Will Is Dead?

The person you name in your will to manage your estate is called the executor. Other terms include fiduciary or personal representative. This person's duties include gathering your assets, paying taxes and bills owed by your estate and distributing the remaining assets to your beneficiaries according to the terms of your will. If the person you named as the executor is not available or is unwilling to serve for any reason, your state's laws allow the court to appoint someone else as executor.

Can Executors of Estates Get Paid?

When a testator draws up a will, she usually names an executor who is responsible for carrying out the will's instructions. When there is no will, the court will appoint a person for the same task, known as a personal representative or administrator. This can be a complex and difficult task since the executor must abide by the law, follow the terms of the will and deal with any controversies among beneficiaries. However, under most circumstances, an executor is entitled to compensation for the service he provides.

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