California parents who keep contents of their estate plans confidential aren't doing heirs any favors. Children can be disappointed, and sometimes angered to the point of litigation, by making assumptions about inheritances or roles as fiduciaries.
A person designated as an executor or a trustee is charged with numerous time-sensitive, detailed jobs. A biological connection to a decedent does not give a person magical powers to carry out estate responsibilities effectively. An adult child simply may not be right for the job.
The job description of an executor may include just a few duties or obligations that take months or years to complete. Ability, patience and desire are qualities required. A family member has an emotional stake in the outcome of an estate plan. Those feelings cannot interfere with the important duties at hand.
Among other jobs, an executor's must initiate the probate process in court, tally and value estate assets, pay off debts and file taxes. The ultimate goal is to prepare the estate for distribution to beneficiaries. Deadlines are crucial and disputes among beneficiaries must be handled properly.
Many people feel it is an honor to be trusted with handling an individual's final wishes. It is also essential to acknowledge that not everyone can and wants to do the work of a fiduciary.
Talk with a potential designee at length before adding an administrator's name to an estate plan. Be grateful rather than resentful when someone is honest enough to disqualify themselves from the role of executor or trustee. The job must be filled by a competent, willing person.
Tradition often drives the decision to have an adult child take responsibility for a parents' estate. A fiduciary can be any trusted representative, even someone who is not a relative. Third parties like trust companies, banks and attorneys offer objective estate management without the emotional involvement family members have.
If you have questions regarding estate planning, contact a California estate planning attorney. Your attorney can help you with the legal documents needed to help make things easier on your loved ones after you pass.
Source: capitalgazette.com, "Savvy Senior: How to choose the right executor for your will" Jim Miller, Aug. 11, 2013