Articles and audio on New York Professional Executor

E231 Emotional Distress During Probate (Case Study)


Death, family, and money are always an emotional mix. And those emotions can lead to headaches and expensive problems during probate.

How to clean out house after death

How to clean out house after death

In general, the clean-out can be an emotional and cathartic process as people journey down memory lane. But in our case, the daughters are from out of state. They had limited time to just tag items for the executor to keep or trash, then leave.

Then, we hired a realtor who was willing to box and move the items to storage on behalf of the daughters. Unfortunately, making decisions in an emotional state caused very confusing, very long lists. As a result, the realtor accidentally took golf clubs to be appraised, rather than leaving them in the “keep” pile. The realtor thought these nice golf clubs were in the “trash” pile, so he decided to see what they were worth instead of throwing them away. He did this so the heirs wouldn’t lose money by throwing away something potentially valuable. He had good intentions with his actions.

Little did the realtor know, the golf clubs had strong sentimental value. The daughters went ballistic when they found out that the realtor handled the golf clubs. The daughters threatened to sue the realtor and call the police on him.

How this created probate issues

How this created probate issues

The incident resulted in weeks of emails and phone calls between lawyers, daughters, and realtor to sort out and calm down the situation. Of course, this was all billable work.

The next consequence was that the realtor quit. This was unfortunate because the realtor was doing an excellent job in going above and beyond. Not only did we lose a great realtor, but it will be nearly IMPOSSIBLE to hire someone else to handle the packing and storage. Now there is a precedent that if someone makes the slightest error, the daughters might sue them or call the police.

Of course, this was not a small mistake to the daughters, but their reaction was not proportionate to the circumstances. Their response far outweighed the mistake. By the way, the golf clubs were immediately returned to the daughters with the appraised value.

Why an Independent Executor may help?

Why an Independent Executor may help?

An independent executor is emotionally unattached. As most of you may know, I am a professional executor. If there was a mistake made, I can dispassionately evaluate if someone made an honest mistake or acted out of line.

I take pride in being a professional executor, but I don’t take it personally. Mistakes won’t flare my emotions as if it were my father’s estate. Even if I think the realtor messed up, my response would be proportional. I wouldn’t have a ballistic reaction that scares other realtors away. There are consequences as to how you go about your business as an executor.

You may say, “Oh, I would never call the police on a realtor who made a mistake.” But most people are prone to some level of emotional response when grieving. Professional executors definitely care about your case and your family, but they do not have the emotional attachment. This emotional detachment allows a professional executor to make professional, independent, unbiased decisions.

You can read more about professional executors by checking out my book, “How to Hire a Professional Executor,” available on Amazon.

E218 Bitcoin Letter of Instruction to Heirs

E218 Bitcoin Letter of Instruction to Heirs

Every bitcoin estate plan must include a simple, easy-to-understand letter of instruction to your heirs or executor. If you don’t, all of your hard-hoarded bitcoin may disappear.

Explain Bitcoin to a Child

Explain bitcoin to a child

Keep it super simple! Write the letter like you are explaining bitcoin to a child. Do not give the whole history of bitcoin, block chain, sound money, etc. Just write enough to get them past this treacherous stage: handling new and complex assets while grieving.

In your letter, write about:

  1. High-level concepts;
  2. Major pitfalls to avoid when working with cryptocurrency; and
  3. Immediate to-dos or checklist.

Bitcoin vs Banks

Most of your heirs understand banks and brokerage accounts. So, explain how bitcoin is different. Explain that cryptocurrency can be lost forever if handled wrong, unlike dealing with a bank. There is no password recovery.

Bitcoin vs banks

If your heir is a little more financially savvy, explain that bitcoin is like a bearer instrument. Bearer instruments are certificates where whoever holds them owns the money. (Cash is essentially a bearer instrument). When you give someone your bitcoin keys, that person has complete no-consequence access to your funds. No one will check their ID or verify their signature.

Where You Store Your Bitcoin

In your instruction letter, explain where you store your bitcoin keys. You should have a rough inventory of what you’re holding so your heirs know what to look for. Most bitcoiners have a little bit on an exchange (Coinbase, Binance, Gemini, etc.). You may also have some hot wallets online (apps, browser extensions, etc.). Lastly you may have cold wallets, which are not connected to the internet at all (hardware or paper certificate).

It is important that your instructions are in a letter, not in your will. Your holdings could change, and you won’t want to update your will for every change.

Where you store your bitcoin

Next, explain how the heirs can access the items on your inventory.

Exchanges are simple to explain, because they are more similar to banks than anything else. You heirs will send the death certificate and letters from the court and the exchange will turn over possession to the heirs.

Wallets are a little different. A good solution for a hardware wallet is to give a clone wallet to an executor or heir and give the PIN to someone else. Or you can split up a seed phrase and pass phrase among different heirs and they must collaborate to access your bitcoin.

Bitcoin letter of instruction example

If you’re reading this, I’m either dead or incapacitated. If I’m not dead or incapacitated, PLEASE STOP READING NOW.

This letter is about my Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, and how to access them. I won’t even try to explain everything about Bitcoin here, but I want you to know enough to not get robbed or lose everything.

Some important high-level concepts:

(1) Cryptocurrencies can be lost, forever! There’s no FDIC, or bank customer support to stop payment or reverse a bad transaction. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

(2) There’s no password reset or “recover lost password.” If you lose the passwords (known as seed phrases, I’ll explain below), Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are gone forever.

(3) Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “bearer” assets, like cash. Whoever holds it, owns it. So if you hand someone the seed phrases, it’s like handing them an untraceable bag of cash.

Nervous enough? No worries, Just follow these instructions, and you should be fine.

On Exchanges

I hold some Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the following exchanges:

– Binance.com/Coinbase.com/Gemini.com

This is the easy part: just ask my executor or probate lawyer to contact the exchange with an original death certificate and letters testamentary, and they’ll give further instructions on how to transfer my Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Now it gets harder.

On Hardware Wallets

I also hold some Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on hardware wallets. What’s a hardware wallet? It looks like a large USB thumb drive, and my passwords/seed phrases are securely stored inside the device. You need my PIN code to access my hardware wallet.

My hardware wallet (and duplicate copies) are located:

– Describe locations

You should automatically receive an email with the PIN within six months of my death (I set up a “Dead Man’s Switch”). Just remember: anyone who has both my hardware wallet and PIN has full, irreversible access to the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies inside.

Seed Phrase

If you cannot find or access any of the hardware wallets, you can still recover my Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies using my “seed phrase.” This string of 24 ordered words is the secret password to control the funds, even without the hardware wallet device.

I’ve given the first 12 words to these trusted people: Bart, Lisa, and Maggie

And the second 12 words to: Moe, Larry, and Curly

Contact whoever you need to complete the 24 word seed phrase. And remember: whoever has the full 24 word phrase has full, irreversible access to the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies inside.That’s it.You probably won’t be able to navigate all this without some help.But at least you now know how to find and protect the hardware device and seed phrases while you figure out the rest.

Also, consider choosing an executor who understands bitcoin and cryptocurrency custody. You can learn more about hiring a professional executor in my book, “How to Choose Your Executor

E207 Hire a Professional Executor for your Insolvent Estate

E207 Hire a Professional Executor for Your Insolvent Estate


Going through probate is a grueling 1-to-2-year process. Would you want to go through all that if you don’t even get anything out of it?

If you think the estate may be insolvent, consider hiring a professional executor.

What’s an Insolvent Estate?

What’s an insolvent estate?

An insolvent estate is when the decedent’s debts are greater than the assets. For example, the mortgage, credit card debt, and medical bills are greater than the value of the house and bank accounts.

There are also situations where the estate is close to being insolvent and you don’t realize it. Examples of this are Medicare clawback and unseen taxes. If you received medical care paid for by the government, the government will want the money back when you die. This could leave your estate with a large bill. Additionally, the IRS will look over your taxes carefully to be sure they didn’t miss anything.

Who Must Probate the Estate?

Who must probate the estate?

Many family members and heirs ask: am I required to be executor? The answer is no! You can decline or not act at all. Although, some may feel like they are dishonoring their deceased loved one by leaving the estate as a mess.

If you think the decedent is close to having an insolvent estate, you have options.

One not-so-great option is to let the state take over. There’s a state office (sort of like the public defender, but called a public administrator) that can step in. But, the interest in the estate and the incentives might not be the same as a person who you hire to help.

Instead, Hire a Professional Executor for the Estate

Instead, hire a professional executor for the estate

A better option is hiring a professional executor. You won’t have to do the stressful work yourself and you don’t have to feel bad about abandoning your loved one’s estate to the public administrator.

Even if the estate is NOT insolvent, you now have a relationship with the hired executor. This helps to make sure you get your inheritance. If the estate IS insolvent, then you can relax knowing that a professional is there to wrap up the estate.

Free copy of “The Solo Ager Estate Plan”

The Solo Ager Estate Plan Cover 3D

Complete this form to receive your complimentary copy of Anthony’s Amazon best-seller, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan

E201 Should I Name a Trust as Beneficiary of My Accounts

E201 Should I Name a Trust as Beneficiary of My Accounts?


Another question that we receive often is “should I name a trust as beneficiary of my estate?” In a recent case, Rhonda reached out to us, because she wanted the benefits of a trust (avoid probate, reduce chance of a “will contest,” etc.), but she was not quite ready for the headache of a full-blown trust setup. In her particular situation, naming her trust as beneficiary makes sense. If you are considering this doing this, here are a few things you should consider.

How to Name Trust as Beneficiary

How to Name Trust as Beneficiary

A full-blown trust has to be set up and funded. It can be a nominal amount, even as little as $10. It has to own things and you will need to convert your banking accounts, houses, and related items from your individual name to the trust name. It may be quite a bit of work in some situations. For example. if you live in a co-op, this can be a lot of work to change your deed. You will likely need board approval, and this will take time and work. If changing your banking, you will need to go to the bank and open new accounts in the trust name. You’ll then need to change any direct deposits and withdraws once the new account is open.

In Rhonda’s case, instead of changing all of her accounts now, she is leaving them in her name and changing the beneficiary of the accounts to a trust. For example, when you have life insurance, you can name a person or multiple people as beneficiaries. However, instead of naming a person, you can name your trust to be the recipient.

In her situation, her trust will be unfunded until she passes. Upon her passing, the trust will be funded using the beneficiary designations.

To name a trust as a beneficiary, there are three basic steps. You must create the trust document, you then fund the trust (even a nominal $10), and finally, you name a beneficiary. Usually, you can obtain change of beneficiary forms for your accounts to change the names. The result: you have a hollow, but ready, trust on standby, which is ready to accept funds as beneficiary upon your passing.

Pros of Your Trust as Beneficiary

Pros of Your Trust as Beneficiary

One of the pros for taking this route is that, in theory, you get to avoid the costs and headache of probate. Probate is generally not easy and takes a long time. If there is a beneficiary on an account, then the account does not need to go through probate to be liquidated. You simply need a death certificate and a copy of the trust to withdraw the funds. Having a trust also reduces the chance of a will contest. If there is a wayward heir, they can contest the will if it is probated. If you do not probate, it’s much harder. You essentially create a challenge barrier with a trust.

There is also a phycological connection. Changing all of your accounts out of your name and into a trust name may feel as if it’s not yours. If that is an issue for you, then this option may be a good way around that feeling.

Cons of Your Trust as Beneficiary

This way of doing a trust does not protect you from court-appointed strangers (known as guardians) controlling your funds during your life. If everything is still in your name and you become incapacitated or someone can assert that you are in cognitive decline, then a guardian can be appointed to control your funds. However, if everything is owned by the trust, then a court-appointed guardian can not access those items. Only the trustee of the trust, as chosen by you, can control what happens. Not only does a full trust prevent a court-appointed stranger from controlling your assets, but they most likely won’t bother with you, because there are no funds for them to control.

Cons of Your Trust as Beneficiary

In general, Anthony is not really a fan of naming a trust as a beneficiary, because in his experience, people generally do not do a good job tracking their beneficiary designations. We see very often where people forget to change their beneficiaries after relationship ends and people die. It is very easy to forget, even if you are really well organized. The designations are not conspicuous and are not usually listed on the statements, so people do forget. Bottom line – people do not remember.

Another reason that Anthony doesn’t suggest this route is that honestly, doing it this way does not really save as much time as you would think. It is actually very similar to what you will need to do with your assets when you create a full-blown trust. In either scenario, you will have to submit forms and provide documentation, which is almost the same process in both situations.

Naming a trust as your beneficiary is a good steppingstone as first step to a fully funded trust. We suggest you talk out your wishes and situation with an experienced estate planner to determine the best route for you.

Free copy of “The Solo Ager Estate Plan”

The Solo Ager Estate Plan Cover 3D

Complete this form to receive your complimentary copy of Anthony’s Amazon best-seller, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan

E190 When Does the Executor Tell the Beneficiaries?

E190 When Does the Executor Tell the Beneficiaries?


When does the executor tell the beneficiaries? Once the court process starts, which is usually shortly after death.

We often get this question when our Solo Ager clients name me as executor in their will.

When does the executor notify beneficiaries?

No, the executor does not notify the beneficiaries upon you signing your will. This is a common concern. An executor only notifies the heirs after death.

When exactly? Usually during the court probate process. But sometimes informally before probate.

Example: if you best friend and beneficiary is working with me to coordinate funeral arrangements, it may naturally come up during conversation that she’s named in the will.

Otherwise, the executor notifies all beneficiaries by mailing them a formal court document.

mail boxes

What does an executor have to disclose to beneficiaries?

All beneficiaries in the will receive the same court form, which lists:

  • The names of all beneficiaries
  • A general description of what each beneficiary receives

For example: the form will not specify that Jane received your diamond ring, and John received $10,000. Instead, it will say something like “Jane received items of tangible personal property” and John “a cash bequest.”

Generally, the executor does not send beneficiaries a copy of the full will. However, he must send the will to any beneficiary who also happens to be a distributee (next-of-kin).

Note: if you have a trust-based estate plan, rather than a will, then the notification requirements are different. You can keep information as private as you like. 

Who else does the executor notify?

family-tree-blank

In New York probate court, the executor must send notice to your closest surviving family, even if you disinherited them in your will.

Your executor must serve a court document and a certified copy of the will on each surviving family. So any disinherited heir will definitely be aware they were cut out.

Free copy of “The Solo Ager Estate Plan”

The Solo Ager Estate Plan Cover 3D

Complete this form to receive your complimentary copy of Anthony’s Amazon best-seller, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan

E189 Can an Executor be Out-of-State?

E189 Can an Executor be Out-of-State?


No, it’s not a good idea to have an out-of-state executor. Although it’s technically legally allowed, in reality an out-of-state executor causes tons of problems.

Banking Problems

Opening the estate account

You probably think opening a bank account is a piece of cake. And you’d be right, if you were opening an account for yourself, personally.

bank kyc

But banking for an estate is a different animal. But an estate account has tougher “know your client” rules, and the executor often must meet with a banker in person, at a branch, to open an estate bank account.

Troubleshooting problems

When you have a problem with your personal bank account, these days you have limitless customer support options. Website, email, live chat, tweets, or call or walk in.

But with estates, you usually must walk into a branch and speak with a banker to get that missing statement or re-issue that 1099. And that can be a pain for an out-of-state executor.

Selling Real Estate

Clean out

Yes, cleaning out the home or apartment is part of the executor’s duties. For an out-of-state executor, this can mean several trips in and out of New York to supervise the clean out.

Closing

source: https-::www.c21redwood.rocks:blog:tag:highland-title

New York is one of the few states where most real estate closings are in-person, with all parties sitting around a table for a few hours.

Yes, it’s sometimes possible to close with an out-of-state executor by signing and FedEx-ing the documents. But if any problems popup (as they often do with estate sales), it’s better to close in-person, so the lawyers can troubleshoot any problems in realtime, and avoid an aborted closing.

Minor stuff (mail forward, etc.)

There are countless small executor tasks to get the home ready for sale. Forwarding the mail, small repairs, returning extra keys, conversations with the super, etc. All much easier to handle with a local, New York executor.

Travel restrictions

travel restrictions

Sometimes an executor simply cannot legally enter the US:

  • Unable to get a visa
  • Immigration problems
  • Quarantine or other travel restrictions

If any of these apply, the heirs may be better off hiring a New York professional executor, rather than a non-New York person.

FREE Copy of The Solo Ager Estate Plan

The Solo Ager Estate Plan Cover 3D
Complete this form to receive your complimentary copy of Anthony’s Amazon best-seller, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan
E185 How to Name a Bank as Your Executor

E185 How to Name a Bank as Your Executor


Want a professional executor, but prefer an institution such as a bank or trust company? Here’s what to expect.

The application process

Like all other bank interactions, you must complete lots of forms and paperwork. It’s a lot of documentation, it may feel like you’re applying to college all over again.

And just like applying for college, you may feel like you’re applying for acceptance. Banks do not accept all executor nominations, and they have internal committees to decide which estates they will serve.

Bank minimums

The lowest minimum I’ve seen is $1 million liquid assets, and it usually must be invest with the bank. But more usually the minimum will be in the range of $2-5 million, liquid and invested.

Trusts only

Anecdotally, we’re beginning to hear that banks prefer to accept trustee appointments, and not executorship.

Some financial institutions flat-out reject clients who ask them to serve as executor, even when that client has millions invested with them.

Apparently some banks have acknowledged that being an executor is tough work, and perhaps not worth it for them.

Customer (higher) fees

Most states have laws that set the executor’s compensation. But banks will usually ask you to sign a contract with it’s own fee schedule. Higher fees, of course.

Banks have many advantages (“immortality,” private client perks such as fine dining, tickets, etc.), just be aware of what it entails.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

E184 Why is Being an Executor Difficult_ The Statistics

E184 Why is Being an Executor Difficult? The Statistics


Here are the results of a survey and statistics to illustrate why folks think being an executor is so difficult.

Is being an executor difficult?

The average executor doesn’t think the job is particularly difficult to understand. But, they do think carrying out the role can be difficult.

statista

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/281604/difficulty-in-being-an-executor-of-an-estate-among-wealthy-americans/

Based on a survey by Statista, non-professional executors feel the most difficult parts of serving as an executor or trustee of an estate are:

Commitment of time required

Many tasks seem simple, and would be if you were doing them for yourself (closing a bank account, getting financial records, etc.). But many executors realize how difficult those tasks are with an estate.

Insufficient legal or financial knowledge

Yes, you can hire an attorney or CPA to advise on most matters. But what executors really want to know is: what are my chances of getting sued if I make the wrong decision?

Filing tax returns

Executors must get tax clearance, to avoid being haunted by the IRS later. This can frustratingly take months.

Managing disagreement among heirs

This is particularly awkward and stressful if it’s your own family. Thanksgiving gets even more awkward!

How much time does it take to be an executor?

According to a survey by EstateExec.com, the average non-professional executor spends 570 hours to settle an estate.

executor_effort_chart

Source: https://www.estateexec.com/Docs/General_Statistics

How long is 570 hours?

  • 71 full workdays
  • 14 full work weeks
  • 3 1/2 months of work

Make sure you’re ok with this level of disruption to your job or leisure time, before accepting executorship.

How long do estates take to settle?

On average, 16 months. In our experience, 16 months sounds low.

settlement_duration_chart

Source: https://www.estateexec.com/Docs/General_Statistics

Also be aware that it’s not a steady stream of work. Rather, there will be bursts of hectic activity, with long gaps of waiting in between.

FREE Copy of The Solo Ager Estate Plan

The Solo Ager Estate Plan Cover 3D

Complete this form to receive your complimentary copy of Anthony’s Amazon best-seller, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan

E183 Did Her Estate Plan Work?

E183 Did Her Estate Plan Work? A Solo Ager Example


Let’s take a look at a real world example of whether a Solo Ager’s estate plan worked towards the end of her life.

Ms.H’s Plan: DIY Will + Professional Executor

Background

Ms. H is a solo ager (unmarried, no kids, over 60 years old) who’s been estranged from her closest relatives (siblings and nieces and nephews) for decades.

She made a do-it-yourself will leaving everything to charity. Thankfully, she hired a lawyer to supervise her will signing.

Ms. H named me her professional executor in her will, and over the past 10 years her wishes have remained largely the same.

Recently

Sadly, age has caught up with Ms. H, and she was recently hospitalized for lack of self-care. Her doctors agree they cannot discharge her to live alone anymore, so we’re making arrangements for Ms. H to move into assisted living.

take care of yourself

She’s understandably anxious about all this, and even contacted her long-estranged niece and asked her to visit.

What Went Right with Her Plan?

Ms. H avoided a few problems by naming me her professional executor.

First, she won’t have to deal with any “court-appointed strangers,” such as a guardian. Instead, she can turn to me, someone she’s chosen and has a relationship with.

Second, she felt comfortable reaching out to estranged family, without fear they’d try to sneak into her inheritance. Since Ms. H already has a will and an attorney-executor standing by, her niece has focused solely on reconnecting with Ms. H emotional, not financially.

And lastly, Ms. H’s doctors, hospitals, and social worker have all been grateful to have me as a main point of contact for her care.

What Went Wrong with Her Plan?

Her plan does have a couple of weaknesses.

Since an executor steps in after death, I don’t have authority to help Ms. H now. For example, I can’t help make financial arrangements for her to access a better assisted living. She much choose among the options thru Medicare.

Also, if unscrupulous and aggressive family comes out of the woodwork, I have fewer tools to fend them off. We’d have to battle in court, which could waste Ms. H’s time and money, and cause her stress.

Why a Trust Could Have Been Better

If Ms. H had made me trustee, I’d be better to avoid any court-appointed strangers for her. And more ability to upgrade her care, and deter unwanted family, without having to go to court.

Living trust and estate planning form on a desk.

FREE Copy of The Solo Ager Estate Plan

The Solo Ager Estate Plan Cover 3D

Complete this form to receive your complimentary copy of Anthony’s Amazon best-seller, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan

E182 3 Examples of How Co-Ops Are Worse (an Executor’s Perspective)

E182 3 Examples of How Co-Ops Are Worse (an Executor’s Perspective)


Most NYers know the deal with co-ops: they’s less expensive than condos, but they come with a lot of rules and headaches. Here are 3 real world examples:

  1. Last to unlock
  2. Quick to Sue
  3. Release of lien

==========

READ

Pick up my books on Amazon. Reviews always appreciated!

==========

JOIN

Sign up to my email list for book announcements

==========

WATCH

Subscribe to my YouTube channel

==========

LISTEN

Subscribe to the “Simple Money Wins” podcast at:

==========