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Executor headaches
Old 04-22-2015, 10:25 AM   #1
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Executor headaches

When my father made me executor of his estate I felt honored but since he passed away recently I see it as more of a headache. My sister informed me that she thinks she should have her and my BIL's travel expenses to the funeral reimbursed. She will have further to travel than me or my step-brother so I see her point, but there is no provision for it in the will. It would essentially split her expenses between her, me and my step-brother. I would rather just pay two thirds of the expense than have my step-brother pay.

All three of us will receive an inheritance from the estate so I thought we would all pay our own expenses.

It just seems tacky since my father had passed away 5 days before she said this.

I am especially concerned as she is the executor for my estate. I'm not sure if this is character flaw of hers that I've never seen before or not.
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Old 04-22-2015, 10:46 AM   #2
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Olbidness, sorry for you loss. I'll give your sister the benefit of the doubt and just say that difficult times can make some statements come out oddly worded. My mother has made me executor of her estate, so I understand the feeling of honor. Even though she is meticulous in her record keeping, and has things planned out quite well as far as I've been able to tell I also sometimes feel that task might have the potential for some friction in the family, but I am confident it would not be something we couldn't work through as we've always gotten along quite sensibly. That said, my sister would also need to travel further than my brothers or I for the funeral, but if she said anything like that I'm not sure if i would just stare in stunned silence, or break out laughing in disbelief. I guess there could always be some extenuating circumstances that cause a true financial hardship - but I don't see any reason to believe that is the case in your post. I think your dear sis is off-base on this.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:30 AM   #3
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+100 what if there was no estate? Would she not have attended her Mom'S funeral?


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Old 04-22-2015, 11:46 AM   #4
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Pay for your sister but not your BIL.

I paid for my brother's trip to our father's funeral--it was out of the country and none of the other children including myself attended--long story, but burial was in the US and I alone went to that.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:02 PM   #5
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Always gets interesting as soon as the word "estate" comes out, ain't it?

Sorry for your loss.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:17 PM   #6
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My thinking would be if she had the means to travel or not...

IOW, if she is well off... it is on her... if she is living hand to mouth then I would help out... however, it is NOT the estates expense unless there is something written.... now, if father had indicated that he wanted his kids there and would pay for it... I would pay it out of the estate...


Sorry for your loss.
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Old 04-22-2015, 12:24 PM   #7
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I would give everyone who attends (you, sister etc.) and allowance for T&L. Why fight it? Hopefully it is small when compared to the estate.

It is funny how some people react to a death in the family. But don't fight the small stuff! There will be enough to deal with the big stuff!
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Old 04-22-2015, 01:40 PM   #8
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How about if you give everyone who will inherit an advance on their ultimate inheritance. Make sure that they know that it is an advance of their personal share, and not an expense to be picked up by the estate, so there are no problems later. Perhaps a signed document acknowledging this before the advance is disbursed.

If all she cares about is cash flow then this may be the clean, legally defensible way to do it.

This way the estate is not paying for what may be construed as expenses that should probably be disallowed.

I assume that assets will be going through Probate and that you will have a legal fiduciary responsibility to the estate first and foremost.

I am going through something similar right now and it sure feels like a conflict of interest (Pension company wants to give survivor payments to my fathers ex-wife, my mother, contrary to what was agreed to and ordered by their divorcee decree)

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Old 04-22-2015, 02:28 PM   #9
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It doesn't seem as if there is a way to pay her expenses without violating the terms of estate or will. And for those of you who vote to pay her some money somehow, what if this is just an opening salvo to see how much "extra" she can get for herself. Once the money flows for "extras" it's a lot harder to say no.

I also noticed the term "stepbrother" which could in itself start causing some issues. I don't know where your sister's head is, but it shouldn't be in money mode quite this soon. You are right to be on the watch for character flaws since she will be the one in charge of your money at some point.
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Old 04-22-2015, 02:49 PM   #10
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Executor = honor = an almost impossible task when money and family is involved.

The major reason we have periodic meetings with our kids, who will inherit what's left. Out of our presence they then are free to discuss the whats, hows and more difficult details. Fortunately they all get along perfectly as do their wives, and whatever comes of the meetings they bring back to us. Everything from who does what, to the amount that the executor will get for the extra work in settling.

Have seen too many unhappy outcomes happening at the time of maximum stress, so we believe that this part of the process is as important as the will itself.
.....................
The unpleasant cases that we have witnessed leads us to believe that any discussion should be attended by the entire family together... all in one room. This tends to keep the pressure lower, as every participant is responsible for his/her own input. Unless the family is totally broken, I believe that this open forum eases the pressure... both at the time of the meeting, and after everyone goes back to their own home.

Tough to talk about, but a reality in more cases than not.
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Old 04-22-2015, 03:05 PM   #11
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It doesn't seem as if there is a way to pay her expenses without violating the terms of estate or will.
As I understand it unless there is provision in the will for travel expenses it is not up to the executor to decide otherwise. Depending on state law, if the executor does something like that then he may find himself personally liable for doing that.

The executor's job is to execute the provisions of the will. No more, no less, and there is little discretion allowed. Now, if there is no doubt that the estate has more than enough to cover all final expenses, outstanding loans and such, the I suppose the executor could make an advance on the coming inheritance.

The OP would be wise to discuss this with a local attorney before he even thinks about disbursing any funds from the estate.
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Old 04-22-2015, 03:16 PM   #12
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Sorry for your loss and I am afraid that you have seen only the tip of the iceberg. Travel costs should be on her... if the estate were to pay them then in effect you and other heirs would be subsidizing her travel expenses.

However, I assume your sister's plea is because the cost would be a hardship on her and BIL (if not then her request is gauche). They should pay their own way.

Consult your attorney first, but I think you could have the estate pay for their travel with the understanding that the cost will be deducted in the final distribution since it isn't a legitimate expense of the estate and as executor you have a fiduciary responsibility to the estate and all its beneficiaries. Or alternatively as gauss suggests, the estate could give her an advance to help with her travel costs that would be deducted from her share. All this assumes there is no question that the inheritance will exceed the cost of travel after all of our Dad's debts and final expenses are paid. If your attorney says it isn't wise to do that, if you can afford it to keep the peace you might offer to loan her some fo the travel cost and then get paid back when the estate is settled.

It would be easiest for you to explain to her that you will ultimately need to make an accounting of all transaction subsequent to your Dad's death to the probate court and that her travel expenses would not be a legitimate expense of the estate, but the estate can act to ease the cash flow burden on her and BIL.

If she doesn't understand then I'm afraid there isn't much that you can do, but be sure to select a new executor for yourself.
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Old 04-22-2015, 03:38 PM   #13
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Sorry for your loss and I am afraid that you have seen only the tip of the iceberg. Travel costs should be on her... if the estate were to pay them then in effect you and other heirs would be subsidizing her travel expenses.

However, I assume your sister's plea is because the cost would be a hardship on her and BIL (if not then her request is gauche). They should pay their own way.

Consult your attorney first, but I think you could have the estate pay for their travel with the understanding that the cost will be deducted in the final distribution since it isn't a legitimate expense of the estate and as executor you have a fiduciary responsibility to the estate and all its beneficiaries. Or alternatively as gauss suggests, the estate could give her an advance to help with her travel costs that would be deducted from her share. All this assumes there is no question that the inheritance will exceed the cost of travel after all of our Dad's debts and final expenses are paid. If your attorney says it isn't wise to do that, if you can afford it to keep the peace you might offer to loan her some fo the travel cost and then get paid back when the estate is settled.

It would be easiest for you to explain to her that you will ultimately need to make an accounting of all transaction subsequent to your Dad's death to the probate court and that her travel expenses would not be a legitimate expense of the estate, but the estate can act to ease the cash flow burden on her and BIL.

If she doesn't understand then I'm afraid there isn't much that you can do, but be sure to select a new executor for yourself.
+1

I would add and recommend that if you choose to pay out anything for travel expenses for sister or BIL that you get them to sign a piece of paper to that affect.
Personally I prefer the other solution which is to advance all beneficiaries (yourself included) the same small amount. Get everyone to sign a piece of paper and keep it in your files.
You do have a fiduciary duty to "treat all beneficiaries" the same, provided that is what is in your Dad's will (equal amounts). If you don't, one could take issue and sue you for "breach of duty". Hopefully that would never happen but my point is to encourage you to protect yourself. People do funny things when there is money involved.
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Old 04-22-2015, 03:47 PM   #14
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What sheehs1 said then if your sister really is pinched for resources make her a gift, assuming you can afford to do so. Perhaps you can assist by finding her an inexpensive place to stay (please not where family heirlooms are stored).
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Old 04-22-2015, 03:48 PM   #15
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I agree, an advance out of her portion would be one way around it. Or alternatively pay each kid an equal amount for travel expenses. While sister may have more travel expenses than the others, it is not a specific item in the estate docs. So not fair to have her get reimbursed and others not. So either an advance on her portion, or equal allowance to every heir.
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Old 04-22-2015, 03:52 PM   #16
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One question has the estate been admitted to probate? If not you can just wait until that is done for this issue, because before that you really don't have access to bank accounts etc.
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Old 04-22-2015, 04:51 PM   #17
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Or perhaps the higher level question is did your father own all his assets solely in his own name (ie with no joint account owners nor beneficiarys, transfer on death etc etc.)?

If this is the case then Probate will be necessary.

If this is not the case then you will have a dicey problem in that the will legally only applies to assets that are solely owned in his own name, with no joint owners, no beneficiaries, no transfer on death etc. The other assets legally transfer to the joint owner/beneficiary etc. which may or may not be what your Father intended.

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Old 04-22-2015, 04:51 PM   #18
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tell her to move closer and it won't be as expensive to get to the service.
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Old 04-22-2015, 05:12 PM   #19
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Or perhaps the higher level question is did your father own all his assets solely in his own name (ie with no joint account owners nor beneficiarys, transfer on death etc etc.)?

If this is the case then Probate will be necessary.

If this is not the case then you will have a dicey problem in that the will legally only applies to assets that are solely owned in his own name, with no joint owners, no beneficiaries, no transfer on death etc. The other assets legally transfer to the joint owner/beneficiary etc. which may or may not be what your Father intended....
Great point!!!

This happened with my great aunt and it turned out to be a godsend. When great auntie was put into a nursing home we established a local bank account to pay her bills with her as primary owner and my aunt (she was great auntie's POA) and me (since I was local and was the one paying the bills for her) as co-owners. Later, I was appointed great auntie's guardian. Over time, as guardian with court approval, I liquidated her stocks, let bonds mature, etc with the proceeds being in the local bank account to pay her nursing home bills. The day after I sent in the paperwork to redeem her savings bonds she had she took a turn for the worse and passed on so after that redemption her only asset was that local bank account.

She had an 40 year old will that we had a signed copy of and a newer (but still 15 year old) will that we know she signed at one point but did not have a signed copy of. We also knew that there were certain parties in the old will that she intentionally disinherited in the newer will.

Since my aunt and I were joint owners of the local bank account, legally the money was ours, so we didn't have to go through probate and we made gifts to the beneficiaries named in the newer will so the ultimate effect was that great aunties residual assets were distributed as she wished them to be.
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Old 04-22-2015, 06:09 PM   #20
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Always gets interesting as soon as the word "estate" comes out, ain't it?
OP, I'm also sorry for your loss. I've been going through it myself. As far as your sister's request, unless she's out of the country it's really not that much more expensive to travel across the country as it is to travel across the state. I think I'd go with Walt's point that if there are no provisions in the will for it, I'd use that as an excuse for not paying the travel money. If it's truly a hardship for sister, a gift might be a good way to go, if you can afford it.

I'm the executor of my Mom's estate...estate being the legal term. It's actually not very much money, a small house not worth much and a few savings accounts and minimal stock holdings. I'm the executor and only heir (other than a behest to the Army Quartermaster School), and it's still a pain in the butt. The paperwork, accounting, and gov't requirements are more trouble than they are worth, but the estate is so small it seems silly to hire someone to do the work.

The sad part to me is that my brother, who predeceased my Mom, had a wife and two kids. We're not close, or even speaking, but they are still his family. But she didn't leave them anything. I've got no idea why. So I've decided that once the estate is finished with probate I'm going to gift each of them a portion of the estate, with DW's help to get past the gift limit. I don't need the money, they do, and it just doesn't seem fair to me. But she was very odd, and I've never understood the way her mind worked. On the other hand, I'm relatively sure they'll blow the money in some way I wouldn't approve of, but it still seems the only fair way to go.
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