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Helpful tip for Executors
Old 04-15-2008, 09:18 AM   #1
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Helpful tip for Executors

My brother, George, is executor of my mother's estate, which has taken over half a year so far and still is not settled.

George has been doing something that I think is tremendously helpful and valuable to me, which is to send all heirs a monthly e-mail detailing what he has done, what the estate attorney has done, what my mother's CPA has done, what the bank holding the trusts has done, what the estate has paid out to whom, what is left, and similar progress items, as well as an updated timeline for future actions and developments.

I don't know or really care if this is legally required or not, but even if it isn't I would urge anyone acting as executor to consider doing it. By removing the clouds of uncertainty it calms any fears or paranoia that the heirs could conceivably develop due to not knowing what is going on, and we feel included. Also, it gives us a realistic idea of what to expect and when and why.

I have known people who weren't as well informed by executors, and estate matters were much more difficult for them to accept than they have been for me.
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Old 04-15-2008, 11:52 AM   #2
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great idea.. thanks for posting on it. Also.. condolences. It must be hard to continue to have to confront this on an ongoing basis, even if your brother is doing a first-class job.
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Old 04-15-2008, 12:08 PM   #3
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Thank you. She was very old (almost 98 ) when she passed away, and had a wonderful life - - did everything she wanted to do, and went every place that she wanted to see. But it's still a different world without her sweet presence in it. I wish every young girl could have a mother like her.

The estate would be an absolute nightmare without George as executor. He is a retired CPA/CFO, and very methodical, very tough, and practical. But, he has been dealing with several banks that are trying every trick in the book to delay letting go of the money (and so far we don't want to sue, because of the expense). He has wrestled the majority of the trusts from the banks, and only one is still untouched. His monthly e-mail today indicates that the last trust will probably be distributed in three months and once that is done, plus a few odds and ends, he can close it out. That will provide all of us with some closure of sorts.
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Old 04-15-2008, 01:03 PM   #4
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A few months back, my MIL finished a year or so's worth of executor-type duties. One of her relatives passed away in Virginia without a will. The guy was a second cousin, I believe, and died without close kin. He also turned out to have been mentally ill.

Here are some highlights:

Retired from both the military and the CIA.
Was found dead after a few weeks because of the flies that were beginning to congregate on adjoining walls.
Left an unsigned will that said he wanted no one from my MIL's side to have anything from his estate.
There were over 70 heirs.
His residence was so full of junk it wasn't possible to get to the bathroom.

His estate included:
Three houses - two townhouses in Northern Virginia, and a single house in PA.
$100k or so in gold coins
1000 troy ounce silver brick
40+ guns (m1 rifles, shotguns, pistols)
3 cars (same model year)
Thousands of books (many of military history)
Half dozen computers (he visited lots of fringe religous/cult sites)
A whole lot of survivalist gear

Probably forgetting a bunch of things. Total estate value was around $1.3 mil (and the guy's pension was 60k per year). We got frequent updates on the progress. Good thing MIL was FIREd, or no one in the family really would have had the time to deal with it.
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Old 04-15-2008, 01:17 PM   #5
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What a mess. The ironic thing is that my mother's estate consisted almost solely of revocable living trust funds dividing almost everything equally between her living children, and she left a recent will saying the same thing. Nobody contested anything and all heirs were in agreement. She had no house and very few other remaining belongings since she was being cared for in the skilled nursing part of a continual care facility. And yet, her estate is taking nearly as long to settle as your MIL's cousin's estate. Pretty soon I am going to have to sit down and figure out how to arrange an estate that is easier and quicker to settle.

I'm really grateful that George is ER'd and has the time and inclination to do a good job as executor. I love the fact that he provides his computations to us in these monthly reports and at the time of distributions, that they are absolutely correct to the fraction of a penny, and that he always gives me the benefit of that fraction of a penny. I don't know if he realizes that I know that but I do.
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Old 04-15-2008, 01:40 PM   #6
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When all is said and done it sounds like you owe George a nice gift or weekend getaway or something.

He's probably just as grateful that none of you are trying to pull any tricks or did midnight raids on her house for heirlooms or anything like that.
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Old 04-15-2008, 02:01 PM   #7
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When all is said and done it sounds like you owe George a nice gift or weekend getaway or something.
That's for sure. I have seen how awful estates can be to settle, and I really appreciate his openness as executor of this one.

George and his wife are coming to visit me for one day in a couple of weeks, because they and their church are spending the rest of that week rebuilding a flooded house for someone down here. I plan to take them out to dinner, of course! But when the estate is finally settled, I need to think of a thank-you gift for him.

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He's probably just as grateful that none of you are trying to pull any tricks or did midnight raids on her house for heirlooms or anything like that.
That's true. We were all in complete accord as to what should happen with her belongings. It helped that she had already severely downsized and didn't really leave much but the trust funds.
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Old 04-15-2008, 02:50 PM   #8
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George has been doing something that I think is tremendously helpful and valuable to me, which is to send all heirs a monthly e-mail detailing what he has done, what the estate attorney has done, what my mother's CPA has done, what the bank holding the trusts has done, what the estate has paid out to whom, what is left, and similar progress items, as well as an updated timeline for future actions and developments.
This sounds almost exactly what I did when handling my mother's estate, including accounting for every penny of it. It turned out one sister got shorted by a penny, but she got over it.

After it was all done my two sisters took DW and I out for a nice steak dinner.
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Old 04-15-2008, 04:55 PM   #9
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Pretty soon I am going to have to sit down and figure out how to arrange an estate that is easier and quicker to settle.
1. Gift money now to the people you want to have it, or
2. Spend it all before you die (and maybe a little more than that), or
3. Have your will bequeath it all to a charity. Nothing scares a trust/bank like the prospect of the publicity that comes from stiffing a charity.

A subset of (3) is to establish a charitable remainder trust. Alumni associations are extremely good at this, as are many museums and charity organizations.

Our kid is our only heir, and at this point it'll consist of transferring assets from one account to another at the same institutions. When my grandfather died, Fidelity needed nearly a year to accomplish that.
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Old 04-15-2008, 05:27 PM   #10
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Our kid is our only heir, and at this point it'll consist of transferring assets from one account to another at the same institutions. When my grandfather died, Fidelity needed nearly a year to accomplish that.
Sorry to hear that. If that can't be done fast, then I doubt much of anything can.
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Old 04-15-2008, 05:29 PM   #11
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This sounds almost exactly what I did when handling my mother's estate, including accounting for every penny of it. It turned out one sister got shorted by a penny, but she got over it.

After it was all done my two sisters took DW and I out for a nice steak dinner.
One of these days you should send her a penny!

Believe me, your efforts in being such an open and informative executor were probably a tremendous comfort to your sisters. You did the right thing.
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Old 04-15-2008, 10:05 PM   #12
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When my grandfather died, Fidelity needed nearly a year to accomplish that.
Nord,
Care to share a bit more on Fido elapsed time. I am handling my Mom's estate and handling the process through Vanguard. Incredible number of forms and rules. She had TOD provisions on all her account and it looks like we will have it completed within a month of departing. Much of the elapsed time was waiting for the death certificate.
My frustration with Vanguard regimented procedures has me ready to move all accounts to Fido once the process is done.
My experience with Fido has been they are far far more flexible and efficient about getting things done than Vanguard.
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Old 04-15-2008, 10:14 PM   #13
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George and his wife are coming to visit me for one day in a couple of weeks, because they and their church are spending the rest of that week rebuilding a flooded house for someone down here. I plan to take them out to dinner, of course! But when the estate is finally settled, I need to think of a thank-you gift for him.
From what you've posted, it sounds to me that the best thank-you you can give him is to let him know - NOW - that you know and appreciate what he's doing.
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Old 04-16-2008, 12:53 AM   #14
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Nord,
Care to share a bit more on Fido elapsed time. I am handling my Mom's estate and handling the process through Vanguard. Incredible number of forms and rules. She had TOD provisions on all her account and it looks like we will have it completed within a month of departing. Much of the elapsed time was waiting for the death certificate.
My frustration with Vanguard regimented procedures has me ready to move all accounts to Fido once the process is done.
My experience with Fido has been they are far far more flexible and efficient about getting things done than Vanguard.
nwsteve
My grandfather had been deep in senile dementia for over 14 years and died in Feb 2002. My father was the executor as well as having guardianship, power of attorney, you name it.

The biggest delay seemed to be plodding through the lawyerly process of writing up the paperwork. Lots of letters back & forth. Grandpa's mutual funds & stocks had to be split (with my brother, no issues) and there was some legal fuss over our father disclaiming parts of the estate. Due to the events of that time, I'm sure that Fidelity was doing nothing without plenty of documentation.

To Fido's credit, when the last lawyer letter was written the asset transfer went to my account the next day. I was even given credit for fees that my grandfather had paid (probably in the 1980s, when mutual funds had sales fees). Fidelity flawlessly handled the cost basis and the tax paperwork.

I've never been a Vanguard customer but I've heard plenty of "Vanguard experience" comments like yours. Vanguard also had quite a bit of fuss over their beneficiary paperwork a few years ago, although hopefully they've worked out those problems by now. I think Fidelity will be quite happy to handle the in-kind asset transfer for you, and I bet they get it right the first time...
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Old 04-16-2008, 07:11 AM   #15
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From what you've posted, it sounds to me that the best thank-you you can give him is to let him know - NOW - that you know and appreciate what he's doing.
I have been doing that all along. Each time he sends an e-mail progress report, I reply and thank him for keeping everyone "in the loop" and briefly praise him for whatever progress has been made. When we take him to dinner during his visit here, I'll bring up the subject and thank him again. Knowing George, he will probably appreciate the opportunity to vent a little, so I'll encourage him to do that and then sympathize and thank him again.

I'm guessing that he is pretty steamed about how long it is taking, since he would like some closure as well. He was probably the closest of all of us to my mother and I know he misses her a lot.
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Old 04-16-2008, 08:26 PM   #16
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Looks like you got it covered all around!
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Old 04-16-2008, 10:37 PM   #17
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Sounds like everyone is acting like a grownup ... how unusual.

My dad and mom had all their assets in a revocable trust. It took about 1 year from beginning to end, including selling the house. I was the executor. I thought it went pretty smoothly, except we were not all grownups about it.
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