Choosing an executor when you have multiple adult children

As you begin your estate planning, you know that one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is who will be the executor of your estate. The executor makes sure that your estate plan is carried out the way you specify and handles responsibilities like paying taxes, settling debts and dealing with the probate court.

If you’ve got multiple adult children, you may be concerned that if you appoint one of them as the executor, the others will be hurt or angered and possibly even fight them at every turn. You don’t want your kids battling over your estate. That’s why you’re making your wishes known in your plan.

Is it better to make your children co-executors or choose one?

Some people appoint all their kids as co-executors to avoid showing favoritism. Whether it’s wise depends on your children. If you have two kids who live nearby and get along well, this might be a good idea. 

However, what if you have kids living in other parts of the country or with no aptitude for handling the myriad tasks involved in settling an estate? Some may have more than they can handle working and raising a family. If one of your children gets stuck with all of the work, they can understandably begin to resent their other siblings. The disputes you worked so hard to avoid can crop up.

One option, if you have a child who’s clearly the best choice, is to make them the sole executor. This works best when your other children agree. Your estate planning attorney can help you draft a waiver for them to sign so that there’s no dispute later.

Choosing a disinterested third party

If there’s no way your children will be happy with one sibling being the executor and you can’t picture them working together, you can choose a third party for the job. If you have a large estate, it may be worth the money to have the trust department of a financial institution do it. You may also choose someone outside your immediate family who is able and willing to deal fairly and decisively with your kids and other heirs.

Your estate planning attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option so that you can make the best decision for your family and your estate.