Picking an Executor-Part 3


The single most important characteristic for an executor is their willingness to carry out your wishes as expressed in your Will.

Commonly, our clients want their Spouse to serve as the primary executor, and if their Spouse is unable, or unwilling, to serve as executor, they pick another family member or a close friend. If neither of the first two is able, or willing to serve, they pick a third individual.

Picking the non-spousal executor can be agonizing, especially in “blended” families, and families where there are multiple children. Although there is court supervision of the actions of the executor, there can be disagreements among family members as to the propriety of the executor’s actions and/or elections for tax purposes. Again, competent legal counsel, who fosters communication with the beneficiaries, and can explain actions taken by the executor, can make the process MUCH smoother.

Although it is permissible to name co-executors, this creates a practical and logistical nightmare; all fiduciaries must sign all pleadings with the court, as well as all documents executed on behalf of the estate (we commonly designate only one fiduciary to sign tax returns). Further, unless court approval is obtained, all executors (not just a majority) must consent to any action taken by the estate[1].


Serving as executor can be a BIG job. Accordingly, it may be appropriate for the executor to be compensated for their services.

The MAXIMUM amount any executor may charge for “ordinary” services is 2{7643a07be85def2dedbecc56bad3bab67e83a7c22b809f3c7a47a1fa73b8911c} of the gross assets of the estate plus $120[2].  If the executor provides what the court determines to be “extraordinary” services (examples: real estate matters, tax matters and litigation), the court decides the amount of the “extraordinary fee”[3].

ALL banks charge a fee to serve as executor. Conversely, it is common practice for an individual who serves as executor (particularly family members) to “waive” the executor fee.


While serving as an executor can  appear to be a daunting task, it is common practice for the executor to appoint an attorney who assists them in fulfilling their duties[4]. Although “final” decisions are left to the executor, when our firm represents an estate, we seek to provide as much assistance as the executor requests, including preparation of any and all notices and court filings based on information provided to us by the executor.

If you need assistance on choosing an executor, or have any other estate planning needs, please contact us at 515-272-0900 or via our website at www.kreamerlaw.com.

Kreamer Law West Des Moines, Iowa

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7155 Lake Drive, Suite 200
West Des Moines, IA 50266-2507
Tel: (515) 727-0900 Fax: (515) 727-0939

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