A cousin is a solicitor in the U.K. He describes a Will as a ‘crisis purchase.’ In other words, it is decision frequently delayed until the end. Hence, our title is taken from Shakespeare (another Will) and his play Richard II when the king realizes he is close to his royal and violent end. Then thoughts of mortality and executors force themselves upon his thoughts. And ours.
There are many misunderstandings about your choice of executor or executors or any such fiduciary such as a trustee. Here is an article from MarketWatch that discusses the topic in an amusing “Dear Abby” sort of way:
The article only scratches the surface of the issues involved, but it is useful for an entertaining read and commentary. Some selections from the article:
“My husband and I are not wealthy, but we do all right . . . Except for the fact that this is my mother’s wish, I couldn’t care less about her money. Call me corny, but I’d rather have the good memories.”
– OK, you’re corny. This quote is sure to bring a smile to the practitioners reading this. As we used to say in the Brooklyn of my youth, the times of stickball and kick the can, “Yeah sure.”
“My mom doesn’t have an executor, impartial or otherwise. She wants my sister and me to work out the details after her death.”
– Choosing an executor or executors is much more than an honor. It entails work and liability. When the relationship between multiple fiduciaries is troubled the usual outcome is discord and litigation. Whether Mom chooses one or both of her children to serve as executor(s), or she chooses a third party (who is not required to accept the nomination), the choice is hers. It’s a choice that should be made carefully and with an eye on ability and fairness of the person designated.
“Should I suggest (again) my mom get an impartial executor?”
– The choice of an executor is a personal choice of the person executing the Will. While the testator may discuss her plans with her children, the children (especially the good child) should be careful not to provide ammunition to her sibling (the bad child) should there be litigation over the probate of Mom’s Will.
“Your mother can name a professional fiduciary . . . an executor (if there is a will) — and that would help eliminate or at the very least minimize conflict after your mother’s gone…”
– True. But just because you nominate a professional fiduciary, like a bank or trust company doesn’t mean the nominee has to accept the nomination unless the assets are sufficiently large to entice them to do so. In New York, the court will always appoint a fiduciary and as a last resort there is even a public official to step in and act as a fiduciary of a decedent’s estate should no one come forward to act. It is called the Public Administrator.
“I feel like this is my mother’s way of forcing me to have a relationship with my sister, using the inheritance as bait. It’s like a guillotine hanging over my neck.”
– A manipulative parent? Whoever heard of such a thing? To quote Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride, “Inconceivable!” And to quote Mandy Patinkin’s response, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Issues like these are above the pay grade of any of us and Sigmund Freud is no longer around to help.