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My father's wife passed away this past February and at that time she was his sole beneficiary. He has just informed me that he would like for me to be his executor of his estate which include property in Nevada and several hundred thousand dollars in a checking account that was his wife's but is now his. My father is 92 and he doesn't believe that he will live past this year although to listen to him over the phone you'd never know it. I live in South Carolina and had never known him growing up since he and my mother divorced when I was very young and he moved out to Las Vegas. I did ask what wishes he wanted me to carry out and he told me that he just didn't want the state to acquire his estate and that I could do what I saw fit. Is there anything I should be discussing with him or any strategies I he and I should be putting in place before he passes away? What should I understand about estate taxes? Are there certain amounts of money that at some point get taxed but not below a certain level? Does his living in Nevada and my living in South Carolina effect anything that I should be aware? Anything at all that anyone can put forth information wise on this would be much appreciated.
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I'm no expert but seems it'd be a whole lot cleaner if you were his beneficiary. Could be there are other relatives who'd come out of the woodwork to gum this up for you otherwise.

As for estate taxes, the limit at which it kicks in is way high right now - 5 million.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/your-money/taxes/18wealth....

But how to make it yours puzzles me.

Good luck!
Teri
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I don't feel qualified to answer, but, some things that come to mind are:
Does he have a will and are you a named beneficiary of his will? If he doesn't have a will I suggest that he have one made.
Are there any other siblings or others that might be beneficiary or have a claim on the estate?
It might be worthwhile to arrange for the services of an estate attorney in Nevada to assist when the time comes.

Bob
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It sounds to me like there is confusion on the difference between executor and beneficiary of a will. The executor is just the person who is responsible for carrying out the wishes in the will, ensuring that all the deceased's debts are paid and that the remainder of the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries as directed by the will. Making you executor just means that it will be your job to follow the wishes of the will.

If he wants you to actually inherit the assets under the will, then he needs to say that in his will. If his will left everything to his wife who is now deceased without any provisions for another heir in this case, then he will effectively die intestate, and the inheritance laws of Nevada will determine what happens to his estate, and it will be your job as executor to distribute the assets to whoever gets them under Nevada law.

Sounds like he needs a new will that does 2 things - names you as executor and declares what happens to his assets, which could mean they all go to you [that's what it sounds like from your post] or could mean they get split up some other way.

But he does need an updated will.
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2gifts: "It sounds to me like there is confusion on the difference between executor and beneficiary of a will. The executor is just the person who is responsible for carrying out the wishes in the will, ensuring that all the deceased's debts are paid and that the remainder of the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries as directed by the will. Making you executor just means that it will be your job to follow the wishes of the will.

If he wants you to actually inherit the assets under the will, then he needs to say that in his will. If his will left everything to his wife who is now deceased without any provisions for another heir in this case, then he will effectively die intestate, and the inheritance laws of Nevada will determine what happens to his estate, and it will be your job as executor to distribute the assets to whoever gets them under Nevada law."


While I do not disagree with anything that you wrote above, I do note that it would be "p!ss poor" will that did not address in some fashion the scenario where a "would be heir" predecases the maker of the will.

Regards, JAFO
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While I do not disagree with anything that you wrote above, I do note that it would be "p!ss poor" will that did not address in some fashion the scenario where a "would be heir" predecases the maker of the will.

But it depends when the will was written.

DH's aunt passed away a couple of years ago, and the only will that was located was one written when DH and his siblings were kids. The will made provisions for heirs and back-up heirs, except it was written so long ago that all of those folks pre-deceased the aunt and the intestate laws were applicable.

Yes, I agree that it is a poor will that does not provide for heirs predeceasing the maker of the will, but as I've seen, if a will is old enough, it is certainly possible for even the back-up heirs to pre-decease.

I just thought it best for the OP to ask her dad to revisit his will and make sure that it is up-to-date and includes his current wishes.

I've seen more than my fair share of incredibly poor estate planning, some of which we are still in the midst of trying to settle, and I would not wish this on anyone when it is so easily avoided.
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I appreciate the responses. I'm rather unclear on all the particulars, but he wants me to inherit everything and carry out certain other things. I think the meaning of the word executor may have been somewhat lost on him. The bottom line is that he wants me to have everything. The estate is in a trust. My father doesn't want my brother to inherit anything and I told him that I would most likely have to fight him on this; that nameing me executor or PR has a fiduciary responsibility which would entail that I would have to fight my brother should he contest the will; and it's my belief he would. I told him that as much as I want to carry out his wishes, I prefer him to make this thing "non contestable"- I suggested he go to see his attorney on Monday, have her call me and tell her that it may be best to co name me or name me as joint right to survivorship on all assets in lieu of making me the one who inherits.
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I appreciate the responses. I'm rather unclear on all the particulars, but he wants me to inherit everything and carry out certain other things. I think the meaning of the word executor may have been somewhat lost on him. The bottom line is that he wants me to have everything. <b?The estate is in a trust. My father doesn't want my brother to inherit anything and I told him that I would most likely have to fight him on this; that nameing me executor or PR has a fiduciary responsibility which would entail that I would have to fight my brother should he contest the will; and it's my belief he would. I told him that as much as I want to carry out his wishes, I prefer him to make this thing "non contestable"- I suggested he go to see his attorney on Monday, have her call me and tell her that it may be best to co name me or name me as joint right to survivorship on all assets in lieu of making me the one who inherits.

Ok, you just got me even more confused.

If all his assets are in a trust, then what the will does is completely irrelevant because it doesn't have anything to do with the trust. Sounds like he wants to actually make you beneficiary of the trust, and probably trustee as well. He also needs to make sure that your brother is not a beneficiary of the trust if he doesn't want him to get anything.

With a trust, there is nothing to contest because the terms of the trust are not public, and it is not controlled by the will. It is controlled from the trust document.

This is really way too complicated for anyone on an internet board to help you with. What you really need to do is to have your father go to an estate planning attorney to ensure that his documents [trust, will, etc.] do what he wants them to do. It would be helpful if you could also be there to ask questions so that you understand it all, even if that's just to have you on the phone via conference call because you are far from him.

But this is not straight-forward, and if he has these things he wants to ensure are done, he needs a properly written and executed estate plan with all the docs that go with that. He can't just hope it all happens the way he wants it done by putting it on your shoulders.
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agreed- I'm confused myself as all this happened last week totally unexpected. I never anticipated inheriting a thing. I fully expected his wife to out live him and she get it all.. .. life is a really odd thing and the most unexpected things can and do happen. I've asked my father to have his attorney contact me so that I can get some understanding of this.
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I'm confused myself as all this happened last week totally unexpected. I've asked my father to have his attorney contact me so that I can get some understanding of this.

I can appreciate the confusion if this was recently dumped on you and there apparently is some urgency, but, more mistakes can be made by acting too quickly without adequate information.
The attorney's client is your father so there might be a problem in having him talk to you directly. A conference call with you father participating might be acceptable.
You might try to get your father to send you a copy of his will and trust documents which might give you a better understanding of what will be involved.
I can't help but wonder about the trust, i.e when was it established and under what conditions. Is it a revocable trust? The provisions of the trust are apt to be more important than the will.

Bob
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...If his will left everything to his wife who is now deceased without any provisions for another heir in this case, then...

...then everything might go to his deceased wife's estate, i.e., HER heirs.

Btw, although we use the terms "executor" and "executrix" in conversation, when reviewing documents keep in mind that those terms have generally been replaced by "personal representative."

Regarding the trust:

1. Often people create trusts as estate-planning tools, and then neglect to move their assets into the trust. In this case, the terms of the will control.

2. When an estate-planning attorney prepares a trust and a will as a package (FYI, a package will also normally include a Power of Attorney and an Advance Medical Directive), the will is often a "pour-over" will, i.e., a very short document which states that the trust is the beneficiary. In this case, assets will go through probate and then into the trust, after which they'll be distributed according to the terms of the trust.

3. Many people's assets are a combination of those in the trust (house, bank accounts) and those not in the trust (car). Assets not in the trust go through probate, which causes a delay (delays vary depending on state).
(Note: IRA's can't be put into trusts, and have their own inheritance rules.)

4. It's better to put major assets in the trust before death due to the fact that probate can be time-consuming. Also, probate is public, so if you'd prefer friends, relatives, busybodies, litigious people, etc, not have easy access to the details of the estate, a trust can provide some privacy.

5. In general, taxes are the same whether using a trust or not (some exceptions with married couples, which don't apply here since your father's now single); however, some states charge a probate processing fee which is a percentage of the value of assets going through probate, so in this case moving assets to the trust before death (thereby bypassing probate) can save some money. This fee might be called a tax, so some advertisements say "Use a trust to avoid taxes," but I think that's misleading, because there are several different types of taxes, and for most of them it doesn't matter whether there's a trust or not.

6. DH's and my trust specifies that anyone who challenges its terms is automatically disinherited. I was surprised that such a clause is legal, but apparently it's pretty common. Your father might want to leave $10k (or better yet, a small percentage) to your brother, and also the "challengers get nothing" clause. Then your brother would have a choice of accepting $10k or suing and getting nothing.


Does your father's estate planning attorney have email*? If you've been given Power of Attorney, he will be free to discuss your father's situation and documents with you. In any event, the attorney will welcome input from you regarding your father's intentions, any potential conflicts, and your concerns. Then he can ask your father the right questions, even if confidentiality precludes his giving you feedback initially.

I have many siblings, and my father had very naive ideas about our future involvement with each other and responsibility for each other's finances. I was really taken aback by the first-draft overview of his trust. Discussion with my father went nowhere, so I emailed the attorney. At the next visit, the attorney asked my father additional questions and suggested alternative arrangements that were acceptable for everyone.

Another thought. It's good you weren't expecting any inheritance, and it would also be good for you to maintain your "zero" expectations, because, even assuming your father has the net assets he claims to have, his end-of-life care could wipe everything out (which is why "percentage" is safer for #6 above).

Good luck.

* Email is not secure, so the attorney might email pdf's with SSN's blacked out, or he might FedEx documents or CD's. Also, if you can't be at meetings physically, if your attorney has a speaker phone you might be able to be there by phone.
If you want your own copies of documents, and/or if you want to consult with the attorney by phone separately, it would be simplest to be prepared to pay for that yourself, out of pocket. I did that, not because my father would have objected to paying for my involvement, but because he already had sticker shock at the base price (about $3500), and I felt his getting this done at all was enough of a coup that I wanted to avoid adding to his distress with nickel-and-dime fees.
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... it would be "p!ss poor" will that did not address in some fashion the scenario where a "would be heir" predecases the maker of the will.

Absolutely. But it does happen. Small-town attorneys who do wills, divorces, real estate closings, etc, are jacks of all trades and masters of none; so you will sometimes see glaring errors in wills they've prepared.

Even attorneys who specialize in estate planning aren't uniformly competent. DH & I interviewed four before finding one who addressed all our concerns adequately; and even within that (rather large) firm, after having DH's & my documents prepared, I was careful to get one particular attorney who would work best with my father, for his documents.
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Btw, although we use the terms "executor" and "executrix" in conversation, when reviewing documents keep in mind that those terms have generally been replaced by "personal representative."
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Well....it depends on the state you're in. Some do, some don't.

The IRS still uses the word "executor", generally in a unisex fashion, throughout its instructions and publications. But it also acknowledges that for various purposes throughout the estate tax return, an "executor" may be a trustee, surviving spouse, surviving heir by intestacy, etc. - in other words, whoever legally ends up in possession of the decedent's property, or with the duty to administer it.

I understand some states use the word "administrator", but that term is more common for someone in the role of an executor, but appointed by the court in the absence of a will.

Bill
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Small-town attorneys who do wills, divorces, real estate closings, etc, are jacks of all trades and masters of none; so you will sometimes see glaring errors in wills they've prepared.
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Oh, you'll find such attorneys in big cities, too. And actually, our CPA firm has had a very good relationship with a couple of such guys over the years. They'll draft a will, relying on cookbook boilerplate documents, and generally do a decent job, but when the client dies, they call us in to do the estate tax returns, and maybe other work as well.

One in particular would make me scream, because he kept on putting a trust in the actual will document - instead of doing the trust separately, and the will just being a catch-all pour-over will. Not exactly malpractice, but almost. It's perfectly legal, but it defeats the purpose of avoiding probate, and may, and usually does, require an annual accounting to the court for as long as the trust exists. And he used obsolete terminology in other ways. His documents referred to "The Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as amended". Well, it's been the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 since,...well, you get the idea.

My advice to our senior partners: "If you ever get divorced, send your wife to HIM!" They didn't argue.

Bill
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It probably would be a good idea for him to add your name to that checking account you mentioned, so upon his death it would automatically roll to you.

Just thinking...

tb2
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