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Probate Horror Story #18: Runaway Executor

Welcome to the 18th in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of The Brown Law Firm, LLC. Last month our topic covered how greed can lead to major legal battles after a loved one passes away. This month looks at the potential problems that can occur if the executor you choose declines the responsibility.

Fictional Situation: Patricia

  • 89-year-old widow
  • 2 adult children that do not speak to each other
  • 4 adult grandchildren
  • Owns several properties and valuable possessions
  • Created a will and named a friend as the executor

Try as she could, Patricia could never get her adult children to see eye-to-eye on any matter. When she was creating her will, she knew that she could not name one of her children as the executor of her will and she certainly could not name them as co-executors. To try to remedy that situation, Patricia named a family friend, Molly, as the executor of her will. Unfortunately, Patricia never mentioned this to Molly.

Upon Patricia’s death, 87-year-old Molly learned that she would be responsible for wrapping up the financial affairs of her dear friend and distributing all property to Patricia’s family. Because Molly knew of the stressed family dynamic with the surviving children and because of Molly’s advanced age and health concerns, taking on this type of responsibility was simply too much. Molly was forced to renounce her appointment as executor.

In this situation, the probate court would need to decide who should serve as executor. It would be natural for them to choose one of the children to handle the executor duties. In Patricia’s case, this could cause an even greater rift within the family. The potential for infighting is great if the appointment is viewed as unfair by other beneficiaries (in this case, the other sibling). The chosen executor may neglect to properly pay out debts and taxes or even hide assets so the other sibling does not receive what is legally due. Lengthy and expensive probate litigation may arise. Contests regarding the executor’s administration of the estate could chip away at the ultimate value of the estate are a likely outcome of this situation.  In some cases, the Court could appoint a neutral-third party administrator as executor to try to minimize the conflict between the beneficiaries.

While no will is completely safe from probate horrors, it can be very beneficial to hire a professional to help you think through the potential ramifications of your decisions. The Denver will lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can help you draft documents with the least amount of grey area to try to reduce the amount of infighting among your beneficiaries. We suggest some neutral, third-party executor if you need one. Call (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to learn more about how to write a good will in Colorado.

Watch for our blog next month for the next installment in our Probate Horror Story Series.