We all know “you can’t take it with you,” but that doesn’t mean that everyone does a good job putting together an estate plan, or ensuring that the plan they have put so much thought into will actually be carried out. It is this second aspect of the estate planning process, the selection of an estate administrator, that gives a lot of clients trouble.
What Is An Estate Administrator?
An estate administrator is the person tasked with carrying out the wishes of the deceased. They have to pass on items to family members, make sure the estate’s bills are paid, and handle big issues like property sales.
If the estate plan includes a will, or a dispute over a non-will-based estate plan arises, the estate administrator will have to go to court to sort things out.
Think Carefully About Who Should Be An Estate Administrator
The role of estate administrator is not easy or fun. It can be very emotionally draining if the deceased was a close relative or friend. This, combined with the fact that it is not something most people have ever done before, means a lot of non-professional estate administrators feel like they are in way over their heads, which they often are. Arranging for a professional, often the attorney that drafted the estate plan, to handle the estate administration process can take a lot of weight off the shoulders of loved ones.
However, not every professional estate administrator is a good one. Just like in any profession, there are some bad eggs. Just recently a paralegal in West Virginia got caught writing herself checks out of three different estate accounts. It appears she embezzled over $50,000 before anyone noticed something was wrong. This is just another reminder of how important it is to thoroughly vet any professional hired to take the burden off of family members and friends.
Tips For Selecting A Good Estate Administrator
Whether picking a family member or close friend as an estate administrator, or hiring a professional, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure the person selected will agree to serve as administer.
- Think about who the people you are leaving your estate to would like working with.
- Talk to the administrator selected about what is required, and any special requests.
- If hiring a professional, make sure they are fully insured so if something goes wrong, or there is a theft, the estate can recover.
- Consider selecting a team of people who can work together and share the burden. Perhaps ones with different specialties.
- Remember to check back every few years or so to make sure the previous pick is still a good one, and that they are still willing to serve.
With a little bit of effort up front, there is no reason the estate administration process should be a headache for the estate or an unbearable burden on those selected as administrator.