When you lose someone close to you, the impact is deeply profound. Each person grieves in his own way and on his own timeframe. But the executor will face the necessary process of settling the estate with some urgency. When undertaking the complex process involved in funding an estate, it is best to begin without too much delay. Estates risk identity fraud, which extends and complicates an already extensive process, when deferred more than necessary. Even when executors get started right away, many challenges can present themselves along their journey which will usually last at least 6 months. Since being an executor can be a stressful and time-consuming process, everything that can be done to improve the likelihood of its success is a step in the right direction. You should be aware of these common complications in estate administration:
Unaware of Scope of Assets
Take, for example, Mark and James, who contacted Inherit More™ after unexpectedly losing their mother, Charlotte. Both sons were long haul truck drivers whose work took them away from home and their families frequently. When their mother died, they understood that undertaking settling the estate would be difficult. Charlotte and each of her sons all lived in different states., and the time and energy required to find all of their mother’s information would require a disruption to their lives and additional time away from their families.
Charlotte’s estate administration would be delayed, since her sons were unaware of the scope of her assets at death. For her part, Charlotte likely intended to share the details of her assets to her sons as she aged, but an unexpected passing meant that there were many assets that her sons just didn’t know about. Like many families, Charlotte’s family did not discuss her wishes despite being an emotionally close family with regular contact.
There is a lesson in Mark and Jame’s story: it is important, not only to have an estate plan in place, but to update it as assets are changed or acquired. Review your estate plan annually and update to ensure that the full scope of your assets is included in your final wishes.
Unaware of Scope of Liabilities
When a will goes through the probate process, it will require the executor to notify the creditors of the estate, which then gives them the opportunity to file a claim. This means that if there are unpaid debts, the executor must take the time and funds required to repay these debts from the estate. In some cases, debts owed can complicate and hold up the probate process, and it can significantly diminish the total value of the estate.
Families come in all shapes and sizes in our modern world, so families and their attorneys have much to consider when estate planning for a blended family. For example, when one or both spouses have children from other marriages, they should seek consultation about what estate plan will be most appropriate for their family’s needs. If the children are of age and lose a parent, will their entitlements be held until the second spouse passes? If so, you may want to consider a life insurance plan with your children from a previous marriage as the sole beneficiaries. This ensures that your children receive the benefit upon your passing with no probate requirement.
Is there a new spouse in your life, and should existing insurance policies, as well as assets-beneficiaries’ lists, be updated? Careful consideration should be given to questions like: Who will get the house? Will the new spouse inherit enough to maintain her lifestyle while still allowing for immediate inheritance by children from a previous marriage?
Contesting a will in Probate Court
Executors bear the burden of responsibility to execute their role ethically and efficiently, ensuring that the process unfolds at a reasonable pace. But in some cases, other family involved in the estate may contest the will in court if they think that the decedent executed it under duress or other suspicious circumstances. Contesting a will adds considerably to the cost and duration of probate and can, therefore, hold up the lives of all involved as well as reduce how much the heirs and beneficiaries will receive.
Too Many Executors
In order for an estate to be administered without delay, it is advisable to have one point of contact for the role of Executor. Still, in some cases, the deceased does not want to overwhelm one person and therefore names several people as Executor. The unfortunate reality is that more than one Executor impedes the process more often than not. Since probate is a lengthy and heavily administrative process requiring many signatures, it is not ideal to require each named Executor to sign at each step in the process. Since some executors may live away and have busy lives, their participation becomes an impediment to funding the estate. Some estate planners recommend that the nominated executors choose one representative from among them, while the others forego their appointment.
Despite these challenges and others, estate funding can still result in a positive outcome. Charlotte’s sons, discussed above, made the decision to bring on Inherit More™ to investigate their mother’s assets early in the process. We got to work unsure of what we’d find – and what we found was nearly $1M in assets that continue to grow in number since we first started investigating several years ago. The work that Inherit More™ undertook required many hours of communication with various institutions both over the phone and in writing. It would, undoubtedly, have been too much for Charlotte’s sons to undertake alone, and seeking the right kind of help continues to pay them today.
About Inherit More™
Inherit More™ is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Assets International. Since its founding nearly two decades ago, we have been a leader in the field of locating and recovering unknown assets. It was founded by Avram Goldstein and Michael Zwick who created it to address the needs of all those who have lost loved ones and lack the knowledge, time, and energy to track down probate assets.