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Dividing your "stuff" in a will + executor question
Old 06-03-2017, 10:02 AM   #1
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Dividing your "stuff" in a will + executor question

I'm doing a new will. I have a do-it-yourself version, but I decided it's time to get an expert involved & make sure it's done right. (I'm a lawyer & know the basics, but also know that one size does not fit all.) I met with a lawyer, who sent me a draft & now we're fine-tuning. I'm single & most of my estate will go to 5 siblings in equal amounts, with smaller amounts to nieces & nephews plus a couple of specific bequests.

Two questions:

#1 - How do you plan to divide your "stuff"? I'm giving each sibling a specific personal item, but what's the best way to divide the rest? I recognize that most probably ends up as junk, but there is some nice furniture, computers, jewelry & obviously lots of smaller items, some quite nice. I can envision that one sibling might swoop in & grab everything, so how to give others a chance to take what they might want? Siblings don't live near each other, or me; two are not well off financially; all have houses that are a lot larger than my NYC apartment. (Translation: they have room for more stuff.) Or basically, should I even care about this?

The draft will says everything gets divided as the siblings agree or, in the absence of agreement, as the executors determine.

#2 - I'm considering making two siblings co-executors but wonder if it's best to have a sole executor. Those two get along pretty well & I think would be reasonable, but has anyone had issues with co-executors? Too complicated to have both sign everything?

Any thoughts & suggestions are welcome.
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Old 06-03-2017, 10:44 AM   #2
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Except for a few small items - our "stuff" is not specifically designated and the understanding is that it should be sold and the cash added to the estate for division. Some sentimental things are earmarked for my sister and my husbands siblings... but everything else goes to the kids.

For us, we have kids that haven't completely pissed us off yet (LOL) - so the trust has them as equal beneficiaries. A different situation than yours.
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Old 06-03-2017, 10:52 AM   #3
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I would name one executor with the second in case the first is unable/unwilling to do it. I would compile a list of stuff that all heirs can choose from, and sell the rest for the estate.
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Old 06-03-2017, 11:10 AM   #4
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Stuff is a major issue for the executor.

If you want heirs to freely pick through your stuff. I suggest they draw numbers out of a hat, and go in order until nothing is left that anyone wants.

Another tip is if you know something is valuable but not obvious to a lay person, create a list with a picture, description, along with the story behind it. Think of a very valuable not obvious items like an ugly clock worth $1,000 at auction or something like that. If it is just nice quality stuff the executor will probably just wholesale it at auction.

Trust me the executors will appreciate it, and help make a very difficult and emotionally charged time go a little bit easier.
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Old 06-03-2017, 01:55 PM   #5
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I'm doing a new will. I have a do-it-yourself version, but I decided it's time to get an expert involved & make sure it's done right. (I'm a lawyer & know the basics, but also know that one size does not fit all.) I met with a lawyer, who sent me a draft & now we're fine-tuning. I'm single & most of my estate will go to 5 siblings in equal amounts, with smaller amounts to nieces & nephews plus a couple of specific bequests.

Two questions:

#1 - How do you plan to divide your "stuff"? I'm giving each sibling a specific personal item, but what's the best way to divide the rest? I recognize that most probably ends up as junk, but there is some nice furniture, computers, jewelry & obviously lots of smaller items, some quite nice. I can envision that one sibling might swoop in & grab everything, so how to give others a chance to take what they might want? Siblings don't live near each other, or me; two are not well off financially; all have houses that are a lot larger than my NYC apartment. (Translation: they have room for more stuff.) Or basically, should I even care about this?

The draft will says everything gets divided as the siblings agree or, in the absence of agreement, as the executors determine.

#2 - I'm considering making two siblings co-executors but wonder if it's best to have a sole executor. Those two get along pretty well & I think would be reasonable, but has anyone had issues with co-executors? Too complicated to have both sign everything?

Any thoughts & suggestions are welcome.
If you get diagnosed with a terminal illness give the stuff away before you die. If you die suddenly do you really care? Like some one wants uncle pennys nice used computer. They want that louis xii chair you have. My sister lived in a beautiful NYC apt, when she died at 49 one of my sisters was a vulture and took nice clothes and jewelry. My other sister took some custom furniture. It was a disgusting sight. I brought my mom to the apt and mom said "i want her picture" we took the framed picture she had by her bedside, and left the sharks to feed.
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:00 PM   #6
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My wife retired as an SVP and business unit manager in Investments & Trust at too-big-to-fail bank. The schemes she liked to see from clients, alone or in combination:
1) Put a piece of tape with a name on the bottom of "stuff" that you want to go to a particular person.

2) Prepare and maintain a supplemental letter giving instructions for the more important "stuff." This is where you can identify things of value that may not be obvious.

3) Direct that all heirs meet and draw straws to distribute unassigned stuff, then each in order picks something, going around and around in order until everything that anyone wants is claimed. In this exercise, item value is not considered.

4) Make sure to leave nothing hidden. Her staff had a regular routine after a client's death, inspecting the house for hidden valuables. Cash sewn into the hems of curtains is perpetually popular, as is putting valuables in the freezer. "Hidden" includes having safe deposit boxes that no one knows about.
Regarding executors, etc. it is important for family harmony that no one go into your apartment alone and that nothing be removed until all heirs agree or are there to supervise. She has many tales where an aggressive heir took it upon themselves to liberate things prematurely, saying "Grandpa told me I could have this." Probably the executor should change the locks immediately if anyone, including hired help, has keys.

There is much more downside for family harmony here than there is upside. Be as thorough and thoughtful as you can.
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:06 PM   #7
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My wife retired as an SVP and business unit manager in Investments & Trust at too-big-to-fail bank. The schemes she liked to see from clients, alone or in combination:
1) Put a piece of tape with a name on the bottom of "stuff" that you want to go to a particular person.

2) Prepare and maintain a supplemental letter giving instructions for the more important "stuff." This is where you can identify things of value that may not be obvious.

3) Direct that all heirs meet and draw straws to distribute unassigned stuff, then each in order picks something, going around and around in order until everything that anyone wants is claimed. In this exercise, item value is not considered.

4) Make sure to leave nothing hidden. Her staff had a regular routine after a client's death, inspecting the house for hidden valuables. Cash sewn into the hems of curtains is perpetually popular, as is putting valuables in the freezer. "Hidden" includes having safe deposit boxes that no one knows about.
Regarding executors, etc. it is important for family harmony that no one go into your apartment alone and that nothing be removed until all heirs agree or are there to supervise. She has many tales where an aggressive heir took it upon themselves to liberate things prematurely, saying "Grandpa told me I could have this." Probably the executor should change the locks immediately if anyone, including hired help, has keys.

There is much more downside for family harmony here than there is upside. Be as thorough and thoughtful as you can.
They had keys to the houses?
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:18 PM   #8
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She has many tales where an aggressive heir took it upon themselves to liberate things prematurely, saying "Grandpa told me I could have this."
When she passed away my mom was living in a CCRC apartment and they immediately changed the lock on the door for exactly that reason. We (my sisters and I) were allowed ONE visit inside to pick out clothes for the funeral, supervised by the director of security. He had some stories about relatives taking stuff and that's why they began changing the locks. None of us was allowed back in until I had the Letter of Administration from the Office of the Register of Wills certifying that I was the executor of her will.
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:23 PM   #9
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When she passed away my mom was living in a CCRC apartment and they immediately changed the lock on the door for exactly that reason. We (my sisters and I) were allowed ONE visit inside to pick out clothes for the funeral, supervised by the director of security. He had some stories about relatives taking stuff and that's why they began changing the locks. None of us was allowed back in until I had the Letter of Administration from the Office of the Register of Wills certifying that I was the executor of her will.
Yes in NYC if you die and live alone we (the police) seal the apt. You need a letter from the city administrator to gain entrance. The exception was funeral clothes. Im sure some day when a "grieving" relative take some dress with jewels sewn in the lining that will change too.
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:24 PM   #10
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They had keys to the houses?
Sure. That's pretty common, IMO. Wouldn't you want to have keys to mom's house so you can go to check on her if she's not answering the phone? Or maybe she's in the hospital and needs you to get something from the house.
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:34 PM   #11
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Sure. That's pretty common, IMO. Wouldn't you want to have keys to mom's house so you can go to check on her if she's not answering the phone? Or maybe she's in the hospital and needs you to get something from the house.
i had keys to moms house, but keys to the staff that created my mothers will? Or am i reading your post wrong? i thought you wrote that " Her staff had a regular routine after a client's death, inspecting the house for hidden valuables". I took that to mean the company that drew up the documents.
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:52 PM   #12
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Yes in NYC if you die and live alone we (the police) seal the apt. You need a letter from the city administrator to gain entrance. The exception was funeral clothes. Im sure some day when a "grieving" relative take some dress with jewels sewn in the lining that will change too.
You'll at least feed my cats, though, right?

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Old 06-03-2017, 02:54 PM   #13
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i had keys to moms house, but keys to the staff that created my mothers will? Or am i reading your post wrong? i thought you wrote that " Her staff had a regular routine after a client's death, inspecting the house for hidden valuables". I took that to mean the company that drew up the documents.
Sorry to be unclear. Where a client died and it was the trust department's job to gather assets, part of the process was to (with permission as needed) to do the hunt for hidden assets in the home or apartment. Always with two people.

Some clients were on a special program where the trust department sort of did life managment for them. Typically these were frail elderly with no family at all or no family in town. I think in these cases they sometimes had keys. But I don't know for sure. Certainly it is not normal for a trust administrator to have keys.

Re documents, they are never drawn up by a trust administrator. Personal attorneys handle that. The last thing a trust administrator wants is to have beneficiaries causing legal trouble arguing that the TA had undue influence or otherwise affected the terms of a trust.
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Old 06-03-2017, 03:37 PM   #14
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If you are choosing to have people draw straws to pick possessions the fairest way if there is more than one round is to reverse order each round. Round 1 is 1-10. Round 2 is 10-1 etc
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Old 06-03-2017, 03:40 PM   #15
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I would name one executor with the second in case the first is unable/unwilling to do it. I would compile a list of stuff that all heirs can choose from, and sell the rest for the estate.
Finally (and I am sure a good lawyer will include the clause) provide that if neither of the executors choose to serve a bank or trust company can be the executor. After all what if both of your kids are working outside the US when you pass, neither may be in a position to handle things.
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Old 06-03-2017, 04:46 PM   #16
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You'll at least feed my cats, though, right?

That was a concern sometimes. We would beg neighbors to watch out for the animals. Otherwise it was off to the pound. After the in person death notification We would look for the telephone book ,and go thru it, and see if a relative want the animals. In those days we used to take the animals to the precinct for 3 days before the pound came to take them. Some got adopted by us. So yes, ill definitely feed your cats. Ill even buy them a wind up toy mouse
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Old 06-03-2017, 04:47 PM   #17
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If you are choosing to have people draw straws to pick possessions the fairest way if there is more than one round is to reverse order each round. Round 1 is 1-10. Round 2 is 10-1 etc
I have seen it first hand. You have the sharks and the grieved during these times.
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Old 06-03-2017, 05:36 PM   #18
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Having gone thru this myself,

(1) Get professional help (estate lawyer) for advise and setting up the will
(2) Name one executor, that you feel you can trust and talk to him/her, before it's to late, explaining your wishes
(3) For bank accounts, name someone as the POD beneficiary. (Or different people as POD for different accounts, if you like) In my state, all's the POD beneficiary needs is the deceased death certificate and proof of their ID. No probate required.
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Old 06-03-2017, 05:52 PM   #19
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So yes, ill definitely feed your cats. Ill even buy them a wind up toy mouse
Thanks Blue! Funny that our will provided $25K to the guardian of our 2 cats provided that they took them for at least a year. We lost the last one a year ago. Time to update the will.
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Old 06-03-2017, 06:39 PM   #20
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Having gone thru this myself,

(1) Get professional help (estate lawyer) for advise and setting up the will
(2) Name one executor, that you feel you can trust and talk to him/her, before it's to late, explaining your wishes
(3) For bank accounts, name someone as the POD beneficiary. (Or different people as POD for different accounts, if you like) In my state, all's the POD beneficiary needs is the deceased death certificate and proof of their ID. No probate required.
On point 2 make that a preferred executor, since for one reason or another they could be unavailable. then same a backup executor, and a final backup of any bank trust department (since there will always be at least one bank in the vicinity if others choose to decline the role. )
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