Berman & Asbel, LLP

Control of a parent's estate after death

Sibling rivalries can be frustrating enough during a parent's life, but they can flare up even more after the parents are long gone. Pennsylvania probate courts could play the role of referee in such cases, which could also result in the loss of some of the value of an estate Through court costs and attorney's fees. Parents might believe that appointing a child as the executor of their estate would prevent these issues, but even this situation could facilitate further bickering.

The executor of a will has certain fiduciary duties to the named beneficiaries. If the executor is also slated to receive a part of a testator's bequest, the situation could become complicated, especially if the executor refuses to be forthright about the assets of the estate and their values. The value of an asset at the date of the testator's death will be important for future tax purposes when it is sold by the recipient. However, dealing with a sibling who delays in providing the needed inventories and values could be challenging.

While legal action against a sibling might be unpleasant, an individual whose financial standing is negatively affected by the executor's inaction might be forced to seek legal counsel. Parents might minimize these risks by setting up a trust or by selecting an impartial party to oversee the distribution of their assets after their death. An outsider might be more objective and efficient because there is no self-seeking motive.

An estate planning attorney might suggest to a client who is preparing a will and who has several children that a trusted friend be given the fiduciary responsibility. It is not required that an executor have legal or accounting experience, and it is customary to seek professional guidance when dealing with complicated issues.

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