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Can One Executor Act Without the Other

An executor is responsible for managing the estate. When a will has multiple executors, they are called co-executors. Can one executor act without the other, or do they have to work together?

It is essential to understand the rights and responsibilities you possess when you are named a co-executor on a will in New York City. This article will cover common co-executor questions asked of New York City estate attorneys.

Co-executors must work as a team when making decisions for the estate. They all hold the same authority over the estate. The court and the beneficiaries will hold each co-executor equally responsible for estate duties.

The will should contain an outline of the responsibilities that the co-executors hold. These duties are:

  • Paying taxes
  • Dealing with the deceased individual’s debts
  • Closing out administrative expenses
  • And more

Making decisions regarding these duties is the responsibility of all co-executors. Some of the decisions may already be addressed in the will.

Can joint executors act independently? One co-executor can make decisions on the estate. The law sees each co-executor as one entity, so if one co-executor acts on duty or makes a decision, it reflects as if all did the action. This does not always end up so well. It is crucial to retain a check and balance between all co-executors, as acting without the consent of other co-executors can end up in a conflict, which can end up with the court reversing the co-executor’s decision.

It is always favorable that co-executors work together to achieve a positive result in executing the duties of the estate. When this does not work out, disputes can arise. If the co-executor cannot agree on a decision, then a third-party intermediary may be necessary to draw out a final compromised conclusion. The co-executors will eventually have to agree to disagree and come up with a solution to the conflict.

If one co-executor has decided that the others did not authorize, a lawsuit may be the next step to reverse that particular action. A judge will hold a hearing for the co-executors to present their cases, and then the judge will make a decision that will favor one over the other. All co-executors will have to abide by the judge’s decision.

Having more than two co-executors can cause increased conflicts, as there must be a unanimous decision made among all executors regarding the estate. One act done by one individual co-executor, is seen by law as all executors acting upon the decision, so it’s best to have all co-executors communicate and always be in agreement, as opposed to one of the executors acting without the other.

If you are an executor who needs representation in a New York City estate matter, you can call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.