Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

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chipperd
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Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by chipperd »

Hello all,
My wife said she was asked by her brother to be co-executor of his will as he doesn't fully trust his wife's family. Not surprisingly, the other co-executor his his wife's sister.
Not sure if it's relevant, but here is the background:
Wife's brother lives a couple states away from us. Married about 10 years, both are in their mid 40's. She has a 14 year old son from a previous marriage. Yes, she is divorced from her son's father.
Seems like an obvious question, but what are the legal and pitfalls of this set up? With two executors, can one make a decision without the other's consent. What kind of legal exposure does my wife (and therefore I) have if she says yes to this responsibility?
Thanks all!
"A portfolio is like a bar of soap, the more it's handled, the less there is." Dr. William Bernstein
medic
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by medic »

If it's his will, why isn't his wife the primary executor? Or is this for the case where both he and his wife pass?
What's the scope of the activity - just liquidating and distributing proceeds of the estate? How specific is that? No trust?
Who's taking care of the child?

Decision making will be based on the guidelines set in the will. There should also be a provision for your wife to recuse herself when the time comes. Just because you say yes today doesn't bound you to it when the unfortunate day comes. Even after you're executor of a trust/will, you can terminate your role later.
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chipperd
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by chipperd »

medic wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 6:03 am If it's his will, why isn't his wife the primary executor? Or is this for the case where both he and his wife pass?
What's the scope of the activity - just liquidating and distributing proceeds of the estate? How specific is that? No trust?
Who's taking care of the child?

Decision making will be based on the guidelines set in the will. There should also be a provision for your wife to recuse herself when the time comes. Just because you say yes today doesn't bound you to it when the unfortunate day comes. Even after you're executor of a trust/will, you can terminate your role later.
Yes, this is the case if both pass.
Not sure who will take care of the child; need to find that out.
Good to know about terminating role.
These are the questions I need to know enough to ask about. Thanks so much!
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IowaFarmBoy
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by IowaFarmBoy »

As you questioned in the original post, I would look into what it really means to be co-executor and this answer might vary by state (IANAL). My MIL had both my wife and her brother as co-executors. We initially assumed that they would both have to sign off on decisions but the way in worked in Iowa about 6 years ago was that it gave either of them permission to do things. This is nice in that they could split the work but also a potential issue in the event one did something the other didn't agree with. They both had to sign all the documents and reports for probate so they were at least somewhat responsible for the others actions.

All in all, it went smoothly. They conferred and agreed on what they were doing. But we were surprised at how it actually worked. This likely doesn't really solve the problem of not trusting his wife's family.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Gill »

medic wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 6:03 am. Even after you're executor of a trust/will, you can terminate your role later.
Careful with this advice. Yes, you can refuse to accept an appointment as an executor or trustee but once you’ve accepted and served it’s not always easy to resign. In some cases you can’t resign until a successor is available and permission of a court may even be required. Also, you may be required to prepare an accounting covering the period of your administration.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by stan1 »

Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries and maybe a home no one wants to keep are one thing, but businesses, sentimental vacation homes, family farms, family members living in the home, and similar can really make this complicated. Very fair to understand what the assets are before your wife agrees. Also, if you would actually be doing it not your wife may as well ask him to make it you officially not your wife.
Last edited by stan1 on Mon Nov 02, 2020 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
rkhusky
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by rkhusky »

2 co-executors is a bad idea if there is any chance of a disagreement. Better to have an odd number and require majority rule.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Big Dog »

rkhusky wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 9:56 am 2 co-executors is a bad idea if there is any chance of a disagreement. Better to have an odd number and require majority rule.
Just read thru Nolo's Trust and Estate books and they strongly discourage co-executors. Per the book, too much of a PIA since, depending on state law, both have to sign every doc and both have to agree on essentially every decision. OTOH, its a way to split the work if both get along fabulously. But just bcos they get along today doesn't mean they will still be on speaking terms in 5-10 years.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by rkhusky »

Big Dog wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:03 am
rkhusky wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 9:56 am 2 co-executors is a bad idea if there is any chance of a disagreement. Better to have an odd number and require majority rule.
But just bcos they get along today doesn't mean they will still be on speaking terms in 5-10 years.
I recently experienced a situation where two sisters were co-executors on their mother’s estate. Now the sisters are estranged and one sister is estranged from most of the rest of the family.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

Gill & bsteiner, under what conditions would you recommend co-executors?

Thanks for any input.

I'm not trying to hijack the conversation, but OP might get some ideas of why or why not she should agree to be a co-executor. Good, bad, indifferent.

Anecdotal info aside, I'd like to get the professionals' thoughts, if they will share with us!

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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by gr7070 »

chipperd wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 6:35 am Yes, this is the case if both pass.
There is no such thing. Someone almost always dies first.

Even if this simultaneous death occurs, there's no reason to have some weird clause staying there are two executors for a simultaneous death.

It's his will. He can designate whoever he wants.

While I would hope he and his wife can agree on who/how to proceed, at the end of the day he designates an executor, of his will, for the moment he dies. Whether she predeceases or not is immaterial.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Lee_WSP »

Oddly enough, this article from Investopedia actually does outline five hazards.

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/w ... ecutor.asp

Here's an article from LegalZoom regarding what the executor's duties include (non exhaustive)

https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/the- ... n-executor

Personally, I would decline. Your wife has no skin in this game and taking on this job is going to be a burden as opposed to anything else. You would usually appoint either the beneficiaries or the beneficiary's guardian (if they're a minor) as executor. If you go with an indifferent party, you'd better hope they really like you and the beneficiaries and are willing and able to take on the thankless task or they're a corporate trustee or attorney or other professional.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by HomeStretch »

Similar situation with my brother. Estate attorney advised against co-executors especially if they live in different areas that would make scheduling in-person estate work together difficult.

He and his wife named each other as primary executor. He named me as successor executor in his will. Wife named her sister as successor executor in her will.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by medic »

Gill wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 7:00 am
medic wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 6:03 am. Even after you're executor of a trust/will, you can terminate your role later.
Careful with this advice. Yes, you can refuse to accept an appointment as an executor or trustee but once you’ve accepted and served it’s not always easy to resign. In some cases you can’t resign until a successor is available and permission of a court may even be required. Also, you may be required to prepare an accounting covering the period of your administration.
Gill
True. I was just saying it's possible. State laws and will clauses will determine what's required to resign.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by bsteiner »

Broken Man 1999 wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:58 am Gill & bsteiner, under what conditions would you recommend co-executors?
..,
In many situations.

Someone with more than one responsible child.

An older married person whose spouse (depending on his/her age and circumstances at the time) might need a child or children to take the lead role but wants to include the spouse.

Various other situations as well.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by bsteiner »

HomeStretch wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 12:41 pm ... Estate attorney advised against co-executors especially if they live in different areas that would make scheduling in-person estate work together difficult.
...
We’ve had cases where they were on opposite coasts or different countries.
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chipperd
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by chipperd »

Thanks all for the thoughts and advice. Lots for me to check out and research.
OP
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Bobby206 »

Co-executors are generally a hassle at a minimum. However, your wife can always decline to act IF that day comes so I wouldn't worry about it now. Plus, the odds are they will get divorced, spouse will still be alive, other co-executor will be dead or not want to act, or other situation will happen that makes it so your wife doesn't even have to decide about declining to act or not.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by FIREchief »

I've been told that if there are co-executors that they will each need to hire their own attorney for legal guidance.
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Anon1234 »

chipperd wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 5:39 am My wife said she was asked by her brother to be co-executor of his will as he doesn't fully trust his wife's family. Not surprisingly, the other co-executor his his wife's sister.
This is a set up for conflict. Having two co-executors who don't agree is a recipe for misery. Co-executors can be OK, but choosing two because they represent different interests/expertise/trustworthyness is a bad idea.

If they can't agree on one executor, recommend they appoint a professional.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by bsteiner »

FIREchief wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:56 pm I've been told that if there are co-executors that they will each need to hire their own attorney for legal guidance.
I had two such cases where I represented one and someone else represented the other. In each case they were siblings. In each case I got along with the other lawyer and we worked out who would do what.

But it’s unusual for executors to have separate counsel.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by UncleLongHair »

I executed both of my parents estates and I agree with others here that the mere idea of a co-executor, especially split across two families, is very tricky.

People get weird when it comes to inheritance, they develop expectations in their head which of course are almost always overblown, especially if they do not have a good grasp of personal finance, which is to say a lot of people.

My father owned a small business that was failing and in deep financial trouble, I literally got a call from the accountant while I was visiting my father in the hospital to tell me they were going to miss payroll. When my father passed my brother insisted that I should be able to sell that business for more than $1 million. No amount of explaining I could do satisfied him and I was later lucky to sell it for about $50k.

My cousin settled the estate for her family which involved a house that was supposed to be split among several other cousins, long story short it had to be sold and the cousins are still so angry about it that they aren't on speaking terms 10+ years later.

While I think these disputes are relatively common they do need to be settled and having a single person responsible for the estate is probably the best way to do that, even if they don't make everyone happy at least it will all be done fairly. Your wife could potentially be helpful in a situation like this but you need to be aware of what you might be getting into.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by nisiprius »

gr7070 wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 11:03 am
chipperd wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 6:35 am Yes, this is the case if both pass.
...There is no such thing. Someone almost always dies first...
I am emphatically not a lawyer and it would be different in every state anyway, but many states have versions of the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act, designed precisely to avoid having to resolve the unresolvable.
The Act specifies that, if two or more people die within 120 hours of one another, and no will or other document provides for this situation explicitly, each is considered to have predeceased the others.
In other words it is possible for two people to both die first!
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by BogleFan510 »

IowaFarmBoy wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 6:52 am As you questioned in the original post, I would look into what it really means to be co-executor and this answer might vary by state (IANAL). My MIL had both my wife and her brother as co-executors. We initially assumed that they would both have to sign off on decisions but the way in worked in Iowa about 6 years ago was that it gave either of them permission to do things. This is nice in that they could split the work but also a potential issue in the event one did something the other didn't agree with. They both had to sign all the documents and reports for probate so they were at least somewhat responsible for the others actions.

All in all, it went smoothly. They conferred and agreed on what they were doing. But we were surprised at how it actually worked. This likely doesn't really solve the problem of not trusting his wife's family.
This was my impression. Nice to be able to divide work. Seems an unlikely enough situation that opposing the idea might possibly generate more bad feelings and family issues than agreeing, long term.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by muddlehead »

Brother's sister vs brother's wife's sister. No thx. I'd pass. Caveat. Unless there's a lot of money at stake.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by chipperd »

muddlehead wrote: Tue Nov 03, 2020 12:27 pm Brother's sister vs brother's wife's sister. No thx. I'd pass. Caveat. Unless there's a lot of money at stake.
There is, 2 comma money, but I don't believe any to my wife.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by chipperd »

Update from OP:
My wife has written down many questions to ask of her brother and agrees it's probably best he and his wife just hire an attorney to be the executor. BTW, they haven't even met with an attorney yet.
I assumed they had :oops:
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by LilyFleur »

rkhusky wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:15 am
Big Dog wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:03 am
rkhusky wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 9:56 am 2 co-executors is a bad idea if there is any chance of a disagreement. Better to have an odd number and require majority rule.
But just bcos they get along today doesn't mean they will still be on speaking terms in 5-10 years.
I recently experienced a situation where two sisters were co-executors on their mother’s estate. Now the sisters are estranged and one sister is estranged from most of the rest of the family.
It really depends. My sister and I got through it amicably after the death of our mother, but the corporate trustee did a great deal of the work. It is easy to underestimate the effect of grief, and how hard it makes getting through all the estate work. We supported each other through our grief, I did a lot more of the leg work on stuff like selling jewelry and cameras, but we trust each other and have done well. I do recommend a corporate trustee--they know all the legal requirements and they are an objective third party.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by djpeteski »

chipperd wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 5:39 am Hello all,
My wife said she was asked by her brother to be co-executor of his will as he doesn't fully trust his wife's family.
This is an easy one in which you do not need a lawyer. While primarily your wife's choice, I would advise "sole executor or not at all". No one needs that kind of headache.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by JoeRetire »

chipperd wrote: Mon Nov 02, 2020 5:39 amMy wife said she was asked by her brother to be co-executor of his will as he doesn't fully trust his wife's family. Not surprisingly, the other co-executor his his wife's sister.

With two executors, can one make a decision without the other's consent.
No.

It makes no sense at all to have co-executors, IMHO. Only pain, no gain. Brother should pick one. He is doing your wife no favors.

If he doesn't fully trust his wife's family, then he should just pick his sister to be executor of his will. Most likely his wife will just pick her sister to be executor of her will. Whoever dies first loses.

Or, they should perhaps talk with a marriage counsellor first, then figure out what they really want and talk with a good estate attorney rather than passing the pain on to "co-executors".
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by RudyS »

Both live in different states. May matter which. I believe Florida requires executor to be a resident [unless related by blood, marriage, or adoption]. No idea about other states. Like many other posts, the law may vary dependent on states involved.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by TN_Boy »

chipperd wrote: Wed Nov 04, 2020 12:24 pm Update from OP:
My wife has written down many questions to ask of her brother and agrees it's probably best he and his wife just hire an attorney to be the executor. BTW, they haven't even met with an attorney yet.
I assumed they had :oops:
You can spend a lot of time on executor duties. That gets expensive at a few hundred an hour.

Not saying an attorney is the wrong idea, just saying the estate will be smaller if an attorney is the one doing all the executor work.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Silverado »

muddlehead wrote: Tue Nov 03, 2020 12:27 pm Brother's sister vs brother's wife's sister. No thx. I'd pass. Caveat. Unless there's a lot of money at stake.
The more money the farther away I’d run. Curious why you’d be more interested in that case.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by muddlehead »

[quote=Silverado post_id=5583769 time=1604533276 user_id=48186]
[quote=muddlehead post_id=5582003 time=1604424431 user_id=10077]
Brother's sister vs brother's wife's sister. No thx. I'd pass. Caveat. Unless there's a lot of money at stake.
[/quote]

The more money the farther away I’d run. Curious why you’d be more interested in that case.
[/quote]

Money can be a good thing if you have kids who need to buy a house, for example. Or parents who have some unexpected health care expenses. If there' s likely to be angst over a situation w/no money at the end, what's the point?
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by Silverado »

muddlehead wrote: Thu Nov 05, 2020 8:09 pm
Silverado wrote: Wed Nov 04, 2020 6:41 pm
muddlehead wrote: Tue Nov 03, 2020 12:27 pm Brother's sister vs brother's wife's sister. No thx. I'd pass. Caveat. Unless there's a lot of money at stake.
The more money the farther away I’d run. Curious why you’d be more interested in that case.
Money can be a good thing if you have kids who need to buy a house, for example. Or parents who have some unexpected health care expenses. If there' s likely to be angst over a situation w/no money at the end, what's the point?
But how would being an executor change the amount of money? Do you mean it would make it tougher to get cheated? I assume the will would dictate things so it wouldn’t matter who is the executor. But I suppose there are always wiggle room.
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Re: Wife asked to be co-executor for brother. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen

Post by afan »

For a larger estate, simply hiring someone to do the work could reduce the hassles. Spouse would still be executor, but could reduce their work to signing a few papers. Let a lawyer and paralegal do everything else.

This does not solve the problem of ending up in the middle of a family quarrel.

Better for each spouse to be the other's executor, with a series of family members on each side listed as alternates if the spouse is not around.
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