The Hidden Costs of Estate Administration

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By Mary Roberts

Most people have no idea that serving as an executor or administrator of an estate is very time-consuming and burdensome. There are some “obvious costs” such as attorney fees, court filing fees and commissions for the executor but there are also some not-so-obvious expenses associated with administering and closing an estate.

Here are some of the hidden costs:

  1. Time. Closing an estate takes time. The compensation for being an executor may not be worth the time it takes for appointments with the attorney, collecting the assets and preparing an inventory, signing of documents, preparing an accounting and tying up loose ends.

  2. Will contests. If all beneficiaries sign off on the accounting, the process may be fairly simple but if a beneficiary contests, then thousands of dollars and many hours of work may be spent with the months dragging by while fighting the Will contest.

  3. Minors. If a beneficiary is a minor or considered incompetent, closing the estate can be more complicated.

  4. Overseas beneficiaries. If a beneficiary lives in another country, extra money and time may need to be spent on translations or notarizing documents.

  5. Property in other states. The executor may have to open an ancillary probate if the deceased has real estate in another state.

  6. Securing the property. Locks may need to be changed or a security system installed to protect the property.

  7. All estates are different. All estates have different assets, different beneficiaries and different sets of circumstances.

  8. Bond. It is necessary for a fiduciary (the person responsible for administering the estate) to post bond if there is no Will.

Fiduciary duties are extremely serious responsibilities that can be time-consuming and costly. At Cooper, Adel & Associates, we can assist you in reducing this burden for your loved ones when you pass. Please call us at 1-800-798-5297 for a FREE consultation.

What Are The First Steps To Take When A Loved One Dies?

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By Steve Wright

When a loved one passes away, it is an emotional time that you should spend with family and friends. Unfortunately, here are a few tasks that will require your attention soon after the death if you are the estate representative.

An important first step you must take as the estate representative is to locate any legal estate documents that the deceased may have had created, particularly any trusts and/or wills. These documents will play a fundamental role in disseminating the estate. Also, you will need at least one certified death certificate. It’s a good idea to have at least three. Most financial institutions will require documentation that you are the estate representative and a copy of the certified death certificate in order to release information to you.

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Does my spouse automatically inherit my car when I die?

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By: Jon Stevenson

The short answer in Ohio is yes. According to Ohio’s BMV website, bmv.ohio.gov, your spouse will be entitled to up to two vehicles in your name under the surviving spouse law. To transfer the vehicles, your spouse will have to make a trip to the Title Office and apply for a surviving spouse certificate of title. The BMV warns that some Title Offices will require a certified copy of the death certificate so it’s a good idea to call ahead for requirements.

While the above will apply to most Ohioans vehicles, there are some vehicles to which this law does not apply. The following is a list of qualification for a vehicle covered under the surviving spouse law:

  • The vehicle/vehicles cannot exceed $40,000 in value.
  • The vehicle/vehicles must be passenger vehicle, ¾ ton truck or smaller, or a motorcycle.
  • Commercial vehicles do not qualify
  • Motor Homes do not qualify
  • Recreational vehicles do not qualify

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Will Your Death Cause Your Family Distress?

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By Jill Besl

Heiress Huguetta Clark’s death in 2011 at the age of 104 spawned numerous lawsuits that have dragged on for years. At her death, Clark’s estate totaled more than $307 million and included an original Renoir, a Stradivarius violin and an original edition of Paradise Lost. She had no husband, children or siblings; only distant relatives with whom she had little contact.

At her passing, two wills were found. The first will, signed March 7, 2005, left everything to her distant relatives but this will had the word “revoked” handwritten and a line drawn through the first page. The second will, signed just a few weeks later on April 5, 2005, cut out the relatives, stating: I intentionally make no provision in this my last will and testament for any members of my family, whether on my maternal or paternal side, having had minimal contacts with them over the years.” Instead, the new will left $1 million to the hospital where she spent the last 20 years of her life after a serious bout of skin cancer, $100,000 to her personal physician, gifts to the caretakers of her various properties as well as gifts to her lawyers and accountants. Her California property went to a foundation that was to be established to promote the arts and her long-time daytime nurse received Clark’s $1.7 million doll collection and 60% of the estate.

It’s certainly not difficult to figure out what came next. The relatives contested the April 2005 will, claiming that Clark had been coerced into excluding them from her estate. After years of legal back-and-forth, a tentative settlement was reached in September 2013. Under the terms, the relatives would divide $34.5 million among themselves and many of the other bequests from the second will would not be honored. Then, to complicate matters further, in January 2014, Geraldine Coffey, Clarks night-duty nurse for 20 years would not agree to the settlement. The attorneys for the estate argue that Coffey caused Clark distress by pressuring her for money.

The drama that has persisted for the past three years since Huguetta Clark’s death and has signs of continuing. It could have easily been avoided with the proper estate planning documents. As Florida Certified Elder Law Attorney Joseph S. Karp so aptly summed it up: “Multi-millionaires or not, all of us should take steps to ensure that in death, our wishes are carried out and those we care about most are protected.” Seek counsel from an experienced elder law attorney to make sure your family – or those who you wish to receive your assets – understand what you want at your death.