Responsibilities of an executor of a will?

kellyengAugust 26, 2008

I have no relationship with my dad yet he wants me to be the executor of his will (he is 75 and has ParkinsonÂs). Dad wants me to meet with him to review his will and whatever else. I won't meet with him but I would be willing to take on the responsibility of his will after his death. He insists that we have to discuss face to face first. If this is the case then I won't do it. Dad always comes up with excuses for why I need to go see him and I'm afraid this is just one of those excuses. I don't want or need anything from him now or in the future and he knows this but I do want to make sure his will is carried out properly, mostly because of my mentally ill brother. I'm pretty sure he will leave the majority of his estate to my brother but then again he could leave the whole thing to the NRA!

So, is there any pre-death responsibilities of an executor?

Oh, before you say it, no I will not give the poor old guy a break. He was abusive and evil and I won't be subjected to even looking at him.

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Family dynamics notwithstanding - no, there are no pre-death responsibilities other than to agree or decline the executorship.

Your situation seems to be one where an attorney is needed to be an intermediary - if you are willing to be the executor(trix). If you accept, there are certain things that are handy to know so you're not scrambling around after a death trying to set up an estate account, looking for assets that could be scattered all over creation, documents, safety deposit box keys, check books, etc. Perhaps these are the kinds of things your father wants to discuss; perhaps he has another agenda. You know what you can deal with and what you can't.

Many people choose to decline - it's a lot of work and will take a lot of your time and energy and depending on the state of the estate, it could take years to settle out.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 12:37PM
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>>is there any pre-death responsibilities of an executor? No. And of course, you are free to disclaim if you change your mind and decide you do not wish to be the executor, when your father dies.

However, if you accept this responsibility, I strongly suggest you obtain a copy of the will and discuss it with an estate attorney. An executor has legal and fiduciary responsibility to maintain the estate until it clears probate. This means, for instance, any assets such as car loans or mortgage loans must continue to be maintained until court approval of executorship is confirmed. Quite often it is necessary for the executor to come up with out-of-pocket expenses, such as for the funeral, and then eventually get repaid once probate begins.

Being an executor is not something I'd take lightly, having done it once before. Even on a "simple" estate it took months of time and energy. You don't have to meet with him, but it would be wise to know what kind of responsibilities you are letting yourself in for, before your dad's death happens.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 12:43PM
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From your post, it sounds like your main concern is that your brother is taken care of. One option is to meet with your father at the office of the attorney who is drawing up the will. That way, he can't pull any bu** with his attorney present. You could ask the attorney any questions you have regarding your brother's welfare and the will. At that time you can also make it clear to the attorney that you don't want to be executor if this is what you want to do.

Depending on your father's estate and his health this could be more responsibility that you are willing to take on considering your relationship.

As other posters have noted, being an executor is rarely as simple as one would think. It takes a lot of responsibility and depending on the estate, time and money.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 3:04PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

when I said 'scuse me above, I was addressing a couple of posts that have since been removed. I sure did not mean any of the above replies that are left....just so you know.

Sue...movin on now

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 10:11AM
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Well, it looks like my post elicited some drama. Wish I had a chance to read the posts before they were removed!

I did read Lucy's post last night but didn't have enough time to respond. I believe she was "reading between the lines" that I wanted my dad's estate for myself. That is not the case at all. My sister and I would both prefer that my dad leave everything to my brother and dad's two grandchildren.

What I would really like is to manage whatever funds left for my brother. If he were to get his hands on a bunch of money it would all be gone in a blink of an eye. I assume dad has to specify in his will how the estate will be handled like setting up a trust fund for brother. Or is this something that can be dealt with after the fact?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 11:40AM
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Yes, it would pretty well have to be stipulated - and this is where professionals would be of better service to you.

In the event your father leaves all/anything to your brother without setting up safeguards, it's his to do with as he wishes. Without going through the legal wrangle of having your brother declared incompetent and being awarded financial guardianship, etc. you'd be left with the option of contesting the will. Whether or not the courts would rule that all is being done in the best interests or for the right reasons can't be guaranteed.

These types of complications can be smoothed over if worked out in advance - much more difficult after the fact.

And if you, your sister and your father can't come to some terms on neutral ground with his lawyer present, chances are you're not going to really know much until the will is read after death.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 3:24PM
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Sad to read about your family's problems. From all your prior posts, it's clear you have gone about your own life with a lot of courage and not let it hold you down.

We lost all our living parents this spring, my father, my MIL, and my step-mom. My brother was executor of my father's estate. It was a nightmare, and a real shock to us, how poorly things had been prepared, especially in the light of my step-mom's needing a lot of care due to a stroke she had years ago. So I am wondering if there is any way you can get some legal advice and then bite the bullet and see if you can make some preliminary steps like getting on the checking accounts so you can pay bills until things are settled, set up a trust for the brother, figuring out if anyone is a survivor on pensions, etc. Perhaps in the back of his mind is not a wish to harm you again, but to put these steps into motion? We certainly wish my father had done more than wring his hands and wonder aloud what would become of his ailing wife. She died before my stepsister (ill-prepared for most things in life) could get the survivor benefits to his pension(s) going.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 4:51PM
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You are in Texas. I am a California lawyer and I would suggest that you contact an attorney in your state about Special Needs Trusts or Supplemental Trusts. If you would be willing to be the Conservator or Guardian for your brother, you can manage the money in a way that benefits him. Get advice now so that he doesn't just inherit a bunch of money and go through it quickly. (so often the case)Mental illness sometimes gets worse as they get older.
The suggestion above about meeting at an attorney's office is a good one. But its helpful if you understand what the options are before you go in with Dad, sister, etc. It helps direct the conversation and avoids misunderstandings. Make sure that the attorney knows the medical level of care your brother needs. Is he in a group home, skilled nursing facility; or secure perimeter location? Or does he just get outpatient care and take medication?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 7:50PM
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As a couple in our 70s with one child, a son, who is not a special needs case, our situation is uncomplicated. We prepared a "survivor's letter" put it in a sealed envelop and gave it to our son. It contains info on our accounts, how to access them, where everything is, website passcodes to our mutual funds, etc. So if we die in a plane crash, he'll know what to do.

I think dealing with this issue with the close involvement of an attorney or other third party is the way to go, and if a survivor's letter has not been prepared, efforts should be made to get one, before the Parkinson's disease has progressed to the disability stage.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 8:38AM
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Just knowing, for example, that a will is in a safe deposit box won't get you into that box unless you are "on the account." Even in a very small town, there are policies. At least that was my brother's experience.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 8:50AM
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I think you have gotten some very good advice here from everyone. I don't have much to add in terms of that kind of advice as I have not been through all of this.

However, it sounds as if you are truly wanting to make sure the estate is handled fairly for your remaining siblings who you DO care about. I know you said your dad is manipulative, but can you possibly set some personal boundaries and do this because it needs to be done, and done right for the future of your siblings, especially for your brother's sake? Think of it as a business transaction, your goals are to learn A, B, C, ask for D, E, F on your brother's behalf and see if he is willing to make those changes? Get in, get out, and don't look back until the time comes for you to be the executor if that is how it must be for you. It may not be easy or pain-free, but if you feel that strongly about the distribution of the estate, you may need to endure some of that pain for the comfort you would have in the end knowing it was handled fairly and your siblings are taken care of.

I don't envy your position, it is difficult, but sometimes what is right isn't what's easiest. I wish you strength during this difficult time.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 3:34PM
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Thank you all for your insightful advice.

Meeting dad at the attorney's office would be something I might be able to do although it would still be difficult. I think I'm just going to send dad a letter telling him that I would be his executor only if he sets up a trust for brother and he needs to put together a "survivor's letter" as Haus_proud suggested. Dad is very very organized and meticulous about records (or at least he used to be) so that shouldn't be a problem. If dad agrees to the trust and still wants to meet, we can try the attorney's office. Maybe DH can go with me since my sister lives in NJ and is even less willing to ever see dad again.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 8:49PM
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