Friends who are executor’s of their parents estate, can you give me your best tips?

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  • #91963 Reply

      Going to my dad’s (still living) next weekend to get everything organized and want to leave no stone unturned. We are meeting with his estate attorney as well. I have two brothers and everything is to be split evenly.

      Thanks so much for any help in avoiding common problems.

      #91964 Reply

        Even if parents say there’s a beneficiary on 401Ks, stock, etc. have them show you on line that it’s really been done. Find out where safety box key is and what bank it’s at and the box #. Run a credit report so you know all credit cards that are open and perhaps limit how many he uses. Did he purchase any stock through Computershare or any other third party? Are all his investment accounts at the same broker (fidelity, Schwab, etc). How many banks does he have accounts at? And how many accounts at each one? If many, try to cull them down for simplicity. Who is listed on each account?

        Perhaps have him save all his mail for a month so you see all his statements.

        #91965 Reply

          If your parents were ever divorced review all life insurance policies to make sure appropriate name is the beneficiary- yeah my MIL missed one of her policies.

          If she would have known it she would have risen from the grave. Luckily my FIL and his new wife were on the same page as her and put the proceeds into a 529 for their only grandchild (my husband was an only who has an only).

          Also come up with a list of all accounts – my MIL didn’t do that either so I had to work backwards from her taxes.

          #91966 Reply

            For bank accounts, make sure they have a beneficiary with the bank. Then they don’t go through probate and it’s very simple. Some people suggest that you be added as joint on bank accounts.

            The only danger is it does become legally your asset in that case – for myself I wanted to avoid that because of college financial aid for my kids (I didn’t want to look like I had more money than I really do).

            #91967 Reply

              Make a listing of all his assets and ensure any annuities and life insurance list the three children as beneficiaries.

              #91968 Reply

                It isn’t 100% clear if this is because your dad has passed away or if you, he and the attorney are meeting to get organized and take some actions (set up a trust, complete MOLST forms, add you to his checking account, or other) in the event of his becoming ill or passing.

                #91969 Reply

                  Check all property deeds and make sure they are written out correctly. My parents’ main house was written as rights of survivorship so it passed straight to my mom when my dad passed. They had a tiny second piece of property that was simply joint and it caused such a huge headache. And actually both deeds were SUPPOSED to be in a trust but weren’t.

                  So my advice is check any deeds!

                  #91970 Reply

                    My mother added my brother and I as signers on her checking account before she died- it made things easy because we were able to sign checks and take care of things right away when she passed. She made sure not to have any outstanding loans or liens- she owned her house and car so it was easy to deal with transfer of ownership. Also- she put almost everything in trust, so we were able to avoid probate and move things fairly quickly to heirs.

                    That said, having a clear list of accounts, credit cards, properties/vehicles, computer passwords or safe combinations, etc. will help. Knowing where any important keys are (or having an extra copy) as well as where important documents are (vehicle titles, etc.) would all be helpful.

                    #91971 Reply

                      Beneficiary designations X 1000! This is, in my opinion, one of the most important things. Double check all of them, and then file the mailed conformation letters that he’ll receive in a place you can find them easily.

                      Also make sure all tax returns have been filed in previous years so there aren’t any surprises.

                      My husband and I both lost our dads within the last five years, and I would say those two aspects of the estate were the biggest messes when they weren’t done properly in advance of their deaths.

                      #91972 Reply

                        Designate a beneficiary for as many assets as you can. If there is a house and you and your brothers can agree on everything, file a beneficiary deed (Lady bird deed). In some cases, its possible to avoid having to even be an executor.

                        #91973 Reply

                          You’re smart to try to figure this out while Dad is still here. Having been through this as the executor, there’s no such thing as splitting everything evenly.

                          There’s that treasured desk. That beautiful framed artwork.

                          If people are comfortable speaking up about what’s important to them, it can make the process of dividing the things that you can’t split a little more manageable.

                          #91974 Reply

                            To add to all the good advice here:

                            1. Name a primary AND an alternate executor/agent for all wills, POA’s, and health directives, in case primary is unavailable or unable to step into the role (it’s a better alternative than naming people as co-executors, etc).
                            2. Make sure all accts have named beneficiaries & review/update them as needed when family & marital situations chg.
                            3. Be familiar with “per stirpes” vs “per capita” when dealing with heir and beneficiary designations
                            4. Confirm beneficiaries named on accts are synced up with heirs named in Will, trust, etc. Beneficiaries named on accts, life insurance policies, etc always supersede those named in wills and other estate docs.
                            5. Consider setting aside some funds in a separate bank acct with trusted executor named as only beneficiary, so that they will have access to funds pay all remaining estate expenses (medical bills, funeral expenses, final tax returns, etc) without having to go back & ask other heirs for their share of final expenses. Any funds leftover after expenses can be split among heirs afterwards.
                            6. Be aware that some financial institutions (like Vanguard) have their own forms for naming POA’s (or “trusted agents”) on accts & won’t necessarily accept POA drafted by lawyer, so best to confirm this for each bank, brokerage, etc.
                            #91975 Reply

                              You’re moving in the right direction.

                              Previous comments will certainly be helpful. One thing I’ll add: you have two brothers and “everything is to be split evenly.” What does that mean exactly? We have 3 daughters; our attorney strongly advised to designate, by name, recipients for all valuables, jewelry, sentimental items etc. The goal is to avoid or minimize to the extent possible, any potential conflicts/misunderstandings regarding who gets what. Even verbal agreements made today on certain items, may not be honored later.

                              Good Luck!

                              #91976 Reply
                                1. If in a state with expensive probate, everything should be in a trust. (Except retirement accounts)
                                2. Check that all deeds and financial accounts are titled in (owned by) the trust
                                3. Make sure you’re aware of all assets of any kind.
                                4. Verify titles of all assets
                                5. Verify beneficiaries of all retirement accounts.
                                6. Have yourself named as an additional trustee.
                                7. Go with your parent to all financial institutions and have them add you as trustee to the accounts. You now  have full online access to all accounts.
                                8. Make sure you have access to originals of all documents: will, POA, etc.
                                9. Ascertain funeral plans
                                10. Verify any life insurance…

                                You now can pay bills, move money, etc. No mystery, no frantic search for documents, etc.

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