Real Time Web Analytics

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The kids are insisting on seeing the will - and the parents haven't even passed away yet!

This reader's question deals with siblings wanting to know what's in the parents' will while the parents are still alive, and wanting to be added as executor. There certainly seems to be a heck of a lot of undue attention on the wills, considering the parents haven't passed away.

"I am Co-Executor of my parent’s estate. I come from a large family. One of my siblings (a residuary beneficiary) is insisting she see the Will, my Mother wanted to make multiple copies of the Will and give it to each child. I advised her it would not be a good idea to have several copies distributed all over the place. There is nothing to hide, but my concern is that if the Will is updated in the future, there could be conflicting copies complicating matters down the road. I suggested if my parents wish to share this information, it would be better to have a family meeting where everyone would have an opportunity to read the Will if they wish. Are there any concerns with this approach? Also another one of my siblings is pressuring my parents to be added on as Executor, she lives half way across the country. If she is added on as Executor, there could then be three, (or one may relinquish leaving two). Can the Will state that the Executor(s) not be entitled to any Executor fees or be reimbursement for expenses? Alternatively can a cap be identified in the Will to limit expenses of an Executor? Ultimately to protect the estate against the costs that could be incurred from managing the estate from a distance such as flights home when required to deal with matters not capable from such a distance?"

Family politics. They certainly make life interesting.

Your parents' wills are private documents, though yours is not the only family to behave as if there is a right for everyone to know what's in them. It's up to your parents to decide who sees it, but I think your comment about not showing it to everyone now in case of future changes is a good one.

When I read a question like this one, I wonder why someone would be so insistent about seeing the will. It's easy to assume that a child insisting on seeing the will is simply greedy and wants to make sure she gets her share, but that's not always the case. What is her concern? Sometimes it's simply the geographic distance from a parent that makes children wonder if the children closer to the parent are somehow influencing the parent. Is there something that can be done or said by your parents to resolve her concerns?

This goes for the sibling who wants to be added as executor too. Your parents had their reasons for choosing their executors, and on the face of it that should be good enough. Sometimes though, there are real concerns such as an executor facing bankruptcy, being sued, having a marriage on the rocks etc. And even if none of that is happening, your sibling might honestly feel that he or she is the best choice as executor for some reason. This is not to say that because a child thinks he or she is the best choice that the parent should change the will to accommodate the child - far from it. But the concern can sometimes be laid to rest by an open discussion.

The idea of a family meeting is workable, as long as your parents are prepared to be bombarded with questions and possibly be pressured to make changes. Believe me, a meeting to tell the children what's in the will is going to be interpreted as a meeting to ask the kids for input as to what's in the will. If your parents want to hear what everyone has to say, there's no problem, but if they don't want that feedback, they will have to be prepared to tightly control the meeting and the kids.

If your parents have given sums of money to some of the kids over the years, such as a down payment on a house, this should be mentioned at the family meeting. The parents need to be clear on whether those sums are to be repaid or not. If your parents don't mention them, the sums of money will be treated as an advance to the kids on their inheritance.

One of the things I like about family meetings is that everything is said publicly so it's clear where everyone stands.

Your question goes on to ask about changes that could be made to the will. Are these changes that your parents want to make? Are the concerns you've raised their concerns too, or only your own? Unless your parents have asked you to find out about these things, then you are doing exactly what your siblings are doing, i.e. pressuring your parents for changes.

Given the politics here, the will should directly address executor's compensation, even if the statement is simply that there is to be no wage paid. It is up to your parents whether their executors are paid and it would be a huge mistake in my view to leave this particular group of children to figure out what the parents wanted in terms of paying the executor(s).

Limiting expenses is a bit more tricky. The law is that an executor is to be reimbursed for all REASONABLE expenses incurred in the administration of the estate. Being an executor is not carte blanche to spend estate money, as you obviously know. If it came right down to the executors passing their accounts, an executor who has chosen to fly in to town repeatedly rather than using email or Skype or couriers could very well find himself or herself absorbing those costs after all because the judge won't allow them.

My final comment is that the difficulty in getting along that currently exists is a mere taste of what it's going to be like when your parents have passed away. Once that happens, it's all going to ramp up instantly. And we haven't even touched on the nightmare that awaits one of you acting under a Power of Attorney. Perhaps your parents should consider using a neutral third party executor, such as a trust company.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You might also like

Related Posts with Thumbnails