Sunday, January 22, 2017
Can the executor withhold his phone number from the beneficiaries?
Posted by Lynne Butler
"Can an estate trustee communicate by email only with disagreeable beneficiaries? The trustee does not wish to give out their phone number."
I am perfectly fine with an executor not giving out his or her phone number to beneficiaries. There is no rule that says that beneficiaries must have 24/7 instant access to the executor.
Certainly communication between the parties is of utmost importance, but in this case the executor has offered another option - email. Presumably the executor will monitor the incoming emails and respond in a timely manner. Email allows for photos or documents to be exchanged, and information can be sent to several parties at the same time. This saves time, not to mention the confusion that arises when oral conversations are repeated from person to person.
In addition, an executor can organize his or her time more effectively when using email. The executor can respond at a time that is convenient. This is important since executors generally also have families, children, jobs, vacations, appointments, and other matters to fit into a day.
My approval of this concept presupposes that all parties have access to email. There isn't much point offering to communicate via email if none of the beneficiaries actually know how to use email. Not everyone does. This is particularly true of seniors, who may not be accustomed to living their lives online.
The concept also presupposes that email is available to everyone and is reliable. Those of us who live in cities sometimes forget that not everything is available in rural areas, or is only available intermittently. I encountered this myself while trying to communicate with a number of clients who live up north (i.e. Labrador). There were weeks at a time when email was either non-existent or so slow as to be pointless.
I'm sometimes tough on executors in this blog because I think some of them take way too many liberties with estates. But I know that beneficiaries can just as easily be belligerent or vindictive and make an executor's life miserable. I sympathize with executors who must deal with difficult beneficiaries. I wouldn't want them calling me either.