You have probably heard the term “Executor.” Under New York law, this is the name given to the person (or trust company or bank) that is named in a Will and instructed to carry out the decedent’s wishes as outlined in a Will. Executors are entitled to a fee for their work, and it is usually paid out of the estate itself.
While friends and family members are often named as executors, the required duties can be complex. They include collecting assets and paying debts, expenses, and taxes. The process usually takes months (if not longer) and involves tricky procedural chores. Making mistakes can result in significant personal liability to the Executor, and so it is important that no party is surprised by their duties or uncomfortable with the work.
Make a Careful Choice
One added reason to be careful about choosing an Executor is the fact that the position can be abused. For example, just last week the WCF Courier reported on the criminal case of a New York woman who faced theft charges as a result of her conduct while the Executor of a man’s estate.
According to the report, the woman was named the Executor of Elias G. Grover Jr.’s estate. Grover Jr. was the former owner of a local construction company. The man died in 2007, and his Will was filed for probate shortly thereafter. However, while the matter was going through the process, the assets in his estate were seemingly wiped out.
At the same time, Grover’s relatives (including 8 children) challenged the Will. They claimed that the woman and her mother unduly influenced the man to change an older Will, which was drafted in 1984 to exclude the children and leave everything to the two women (they were his caregivers). Eventually, the court agreed, throwing out the new Will. Sadly, by that time, most of the estate was already gone, as the Executor apparently spent over $140,000 on trips, casino visits, and gifts to others.
Recently, the Executor and her mother both entered pleas in their criminal cases–they will receive probation. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that either will be able to pay back much of what was taken from the estate, leaving the children out of luck.
This sad example is a reminder of the need to be very vigilant about all choices related to an estate plan, including the naming of an executor and trustees. An attorney with experience can identify possible issues to lower the risk that these sorts of crimes are committed in the case of your loved one.