Should we get a co-executor for the estate?
October 21, 2008 6:56 AM   Subscribe

My father and mother recently named me as executor of their modest estates. However, as I have no experience with this, they believe it may be helpful for me to have a co-executor, and my father has set up a meeting with a lawyer in Boston. (My parents live in Virginia, and I live in New York). Can anyone offer insight into what questions I should ask the prospective co-executor, or what the possible pros and cons are for having a "professional" co-executor?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If the professional co-executor is named in the will, they have you over a barrel with regard to pricing. They may also have died, ceased trading, etc. If it's possible that your parents will survive another twenty years, say, then a lot can happen to a law firm in that time.

In addition, if you name someone now, you can only make your decision based on things as they are at present; if the estate becomes substantially more (or less) complex in the future you may want to change your mind.

Presumably, though, you can hire a lawyer after your parents are deceased, to handle the execution of the will for you, even if they are not a named executor.
posted by emilyw at 7:07 AM on October 21, 2008

I don't think you want the lawyer as a co-executor able to authorize actions in handling the estate so much as you want to have a lawyer who can guide you through the process, and perform the legal and administrative tasks but who leaves the decisions to you. I would treat this as a hiring interview where you ask about the lawyer's experience, rates, how much time will be billed, and also a walk-through of the process and what you will have to do. You might also want to line up an accountant if you parents are not already using one. You will also have to decide who the client is for each party, you or the estate. I highly recommend the latter.
posted by caddis at 7:08 AM on October 21, 2008

Meet with the lawyer, he or she will explain everything. You need to pass on your concerns about cost and control issues. The lawyer is required to execute your wishes. Let the lawyer explain the issues, as state law is the operating one.

There's going to be no "over a barrel" pricing issues later on. You'll likely agree on a rate ahead of time, adjusted for inflation.

Do your parents have a complete plan? That's the key.

Just have your questions ready.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:30 AM on October 21, 2008

Being the executor of a will is a huge pain. Outsourcing it to someone -- ask the lawyer about naming whatever bank is holding most of the assets -- is usually a good idea, especially since you'll be dealing with all this days after your last parent has died. Keep in mind that an executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate, so you won't get screwed or anything.

In any case, the estate lawyer will give you good advice about how to structure the estate. If a lawyer hasn't already set all this up, make sure you do so. It's way cheaper to set things up right now than deal with it all afterward and potentially lose value to the estate.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 8:53 AM on October 21, 2008

My limited personal experience (in the UK) is that the less you can have to do with lawyers, the better. The affairs of my own grandparents, without lawyerly involvement, were resolved and finalised within weeks by executors who were family members (people who had never been to University or anything).

My mother-in-law died about two years ago and at the moment there appears to be no prospec t of any of her children seeing a penny of her legacy for the foreseeable future, even though my sister-in-law really needs the money - because a lawyer is doing it. The firm is one my father-in-law regards as 'his' solicitors; he originally dealt with the father of the current person; but the inertia, incompetence, and sheer insolence of this character is unbelievable. If the money does eventually emerge, it will be much reduced by fees (amazingly, most of the work is to be sub-contracted to another solicitor, at substantial additional cost).

Your situation may be quite different, but really I think it would be a grave mistake to imagine that making a lawyer an executor necessarily makes things safer or easier.
posted by Phanx at 9:00 AM on October 21, 2008

Although the Boston lawyer may offer suggestions for structuring your parents' estate and/or help you become better informed in a general way, the rules governing executors vary from state to state. Should you eventually need an attorney to help with executor tasks, you'll need one admitted to the VA bar.
posted by carmicha at 10:08 AM on October 21, 2008

This conversation is all about your parents being comfortable with you and their estate planning and nothing about the actual, practical aspects of executing a will. Being an executor is a huge pain and requires a lot of organization and legal filings. But there's no need to have a co-executor named in the will, the sole executor can simply hire a lawyer to act on the estate's behalf. If I were you, I'd tell your parents you're an adult and should the horrible circumstance occur some day you can handle the execution yourself with the help of a lawyer.

The only reason I could see to have a named co-executor is if you are also a beneficiary, but not the only beneficiary. Ie: if there's some doubt you will fairly execute the will since you have a conflict of interest.
posted by Nelson at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2008

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