One of the more common issues in making a will that comes up is who should be the executor. An executor is the person legally responsible for the gathering of assets and debts of the decedent, preserving the assets (including the conduct of any business owned by the decedent), paying the expenses of the estate, filing the Pennsylvania and Federal (the probate estate must be more than 5 Million Dollars to require a Federal filing) and paying the applicable tax(es). The executor is the person who chooses the attorney for the estate, sells what assets need or should be sold, and oversee the distribution of the remaining assets according to the will to the legatees.
The considerations in choosing the executor should be about the ability of the person chosen, the availability to the probate Court and the attorney for the estate, and that person’s willingness to do the work. Sometimes that entails cleaning out the residence of the decedent, conducting an estate sale and contacting various employers, insurance and financial companies, and selling real estate. The executor is permitted to take a reasonable fee for his/her services, as well.
A problem can arise when the decedent decided, for various reasons, including not wishing to insult anyone, to name multiple persons as co-executors. Even when they are all related and have a good relationship, the necessity for all to execute documents, meet/speak with each other on a regular basis, perform the duties necessary of an executor, and to agree, can cause delay and confusion.
Simply put, it is usually better when writing a will, to designate only one person as the executor. In doing so, it is not an insult to those not chosen, but a recognition that the estate process will probably go smoother and quicker if only one person has the authority to act on behalf of the estate. It is always the duty of the executor(s) to treat all legatees and creditors fairly and with an even hand in implementing the provisions of the will. The person chosen should have the confidence of the writer of the will, and someone that has the time, ability and willingness to act as the executor.