When you agree to serve as the fiduciary responsible for the affairs of a friend or relation upon their death, be aware that some drama could crop up, especially if there is no estate plan, or if plans have not been updated carefully. Then too, sometimes drama springs up unexpectedly during the process. Here is some advice from attorneys.
Strained Family Relations
As much as family members may try to work around or avoid problematic relations, histories of unsolved conflicts, mistrust and poor communication can really cause damage when it’s time to settle an estate. When grief is added to the mix, unintended drama can brew up quickly—perhaps even triggered by the designated executor. As experts at Georgia Probate Law Group explain, guidance from an attorney can frequently be useful in clarifying roles, responsibilities and processes, while helping everyone move to closure:
Sometimes, you just know that some member of the family is going to be a problem.Perhaps you’ve spent decades dealing with a hotheaded sister or brother who has a dubious moral compass. You always knew that this person would cause problems or drama after your parents passed away. For instance, maybe your father named your brother as the executor of his estate. Once in power, sure enough, your brother acts like the dictator of the estate, refusing to share information or important documents …. Executors and administrators owe the estate and its heirs and beneficiaries a fiduciary duty, which means that must always act in the best interest of the estate and those who will inherit from it; the estate is no one’s private fiefdom.
While some chinks in family or friend relations that cause a bit of stress as an estate is settled are not unusual, major drama—like the kind that hits the news after celebrities or the uber wealthy die—is actually atypical in the probate process. Though there are many probate misunderstandings afloat, the reality is that when families are communicating and have had a chance to get organized, probate generally proceeds smoothly. Many states have even implemented simplified and expedited procedures, based on the assets and circumstances involved. Justia points out that complications during probate generally stem from “high-risk factors” such as “sibling rivalry, second marriages, and dysfunctional families.” However, estate drama can of course crop up in unexpected ways too, as probate lawyers point out:
Sometimes, family members engage in shocking or strange behavior during probate that not only causes problems but also forces people to reevaluate their relationships.For instance, you might have always respected and liked your uncle. But perhaps after your mother dies, and you become the executor of the estate, you get a glimpse of a very different, disturbing side of him. Perhaps he tries to take your mom’s art and ceramics from her house. You tell him he must wait while you organize affairs; he gets angry and yells at you and threatens retaliation.
Although most executors will not experience this type of situation, family dramas can be troublesome—and it is good to know that attorneys can help create tailored solutions based on the situation and family goals. Having expert guidance can make all the difference and provide an understanding of options. As attorneys explain, for some families, help might be needed to “set the stage to repair damaged relationships or prevent family ruptures in the first place.” In other circumstances, legal help might be needed to advocate, negotiate or litigate as the estate is settled.
Understanding Estate and Executor Bonds
The fiduciary appointed to attend to the affairs of the estate might be referred to as an executor, administrator, personal representative or trustee depending on the circumstances and region. Regardless of the specifics of the estate being settled, the fiduciaries have a responsibility to act in accordance with the intentions set forth in estate planning documents and the law. Fiduciary bonds, alternatively referred to as executor bonds or estate bonds are often required during probate as a safeguard for the interests of the estate and beneficiaries. Learn more about estate bonds right here. At Colonial, a leading national provider of all types of fiduciary bonds, the steps to obtaining executor bonds or estate bonds and all other types of fiduciary bonds are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even before leaving probate court.
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