When you begin to think about your estate plan, you have probably focused on who you wish to leave your most prized possessions to. But have you considered who you want to be the person in charge? The qualification of the administrator to one’s estate is just as important as who gets what. The relationship between an estate’s administrator and the heirs of the estate must be one of great trust. Herein are just a few considerations you should have in mind when deciding on who should serve as the administrator to your estate.
The Personal Connection:
Generally, people appoint as administrators those individuals with whom they have a close personal relationship. This person can take the form of a spouse, a sibling, or even a trusted friend. Many times spouses, siblings, or friends are chosen to be administrators because they are the individuals who know the testator best and have some ideas about how the testator wishes to have their estates administered. Spouses are picked because they jointly own some of the items in the estate or because they are of a similar mind set as the testator. A sibling is chosen because they are the oldest or they are the ones expected to be the most responsible out of the bunch. Friends are chosen because they are trusted and the testator has given them some form of directions as to how they want their estate to be administered. However, marriages can end in divorce, friendships can end in fights and siblings can be outcasts to their own family. To determine whether an individual should be given the administrative powers in an estate, the testator should determine with whom they feel they can trust, even in great times of conflict. Perhaps the friend, regardless of a fight with the testator, would still be the type of person who would carry out a testator’s wishes. Perhaps the divorced spouses are still friends and still maintain such trust with each other that they would be willing to take care of the ex’s family. And, perhaps the sibling is able to put aside family prejudices to take care of those who matter most to the testator and administer the estate in accordance with the testator’s wishes.
There are instances wherein picking the most experienced or the eldest individual actually serves as a disadvantage to the administration of an estate. If only one individual in the family is chosen as the administrator of everyone’s estate, sure he or she may have obtained a great minutia of information about how to administer an estate because they have had the prior experience. Perhaps they know the best way of going about investing the estate so that it continues to garner income for the beneficiaries, or perhaps the administrator knows how to best protect the liquid assets from a beneficiaries creditors. But what if something happened to that one individual that prevented them from being able to administer the estate? Whoever is next in line would be excluded from that valuable knowledge of first handedly administering prior estates. The younger administrator might even be just beginning to learn the intricacies of how certain assets function. However, sometimes being the youngest is a benefit in that it allows that individual the opportunity to be around longer, to learn about how certain assets are created and how best to maintain those assets during the administration process. Even as the baby boomer generation is aging and their grandchildren are beginning to enter their mid-lives and create families of their own, consideration should be given to those individuals most likely to be around the longest to effectively administer the estate. Perhaps appointing a young individual might be best for an estate plan in that they would be able to see just how long term an asset may need to be maintained or used to take care of aging loved ones.
The Skeleton in the Closet:
Everyone has their secrets and skeletons in their closet that they do not wish for the world to know. As one is thinking about their estate plan, the testator should also look to what potential “skeletons” may be hiding in any potential administrator’s closet, like a criminal history that you may not be aware of. In the state of Texas, an individual who has been convicted of a felony cannot be appointed as administrator. While a testator would hope to know whether the individual they are appointing has ever been convicted of a crime, there are instances wherein a person may have pled guilty to a felony crime but served their probation sentence so as not to have to serve time in jail. It is just as important for an individual who is or could be appointed as administrator of an estate to take into consideration what they are pleading to in a criminal proceeding. While time may have passed, the court can still take into consideration a person’s criminal past, regardless of how long ago it may have been.
Should That Power be Spilt Upon Several Individuals:
At times when a testator does not trust a single individual to serve as an administrator alone, the appointment of co-administrators may be best. By having co-administrators, a testator can provide a check and balance to the powers of an individual administrator, in that both of the administrators would have to work together to accomplish the administration of the estate. However, there are instances wherein a single administrator may be preferred to co-administrators. One example, where one single administrator would be best, would be in the instance selling a piece of real property in an estate, wherein there are multiple out-of-state beneficiaries. If the sale of property was an integral part of the estate’s administration as a whole, prior to its closing, the administrator would be able to convey the property on behalf of the beneficiaries, without the need for the multiple out-of-state beneficiaries to be present at the closing to sign the deed conveying the property.
Administering an estate is a position created out of trust: Trust by the testator that their estate will be handled and given to the beneficiaries as they wished and trust by the beneficiaries in the administrator that they will do what is best for the assets to preserve them and benefit the recipients. Prior to naming just anyone to serve as an administrator in an estate, a testator should consider all the factors of not only who they trust, but who may be there the longest, of what secrets may prevent an individual from serving, whether that individual may even want to take on the responsibilities they are given as an administrator, and what assets make up an estate. Prior to making your Will, you should have an honest conversation with those individuals you are considering appointing to serve as administrator and communicate your wishes directly to them regarding how to administer your estate.
Whether it be in determining who may be the best to appoint as administrator to your estate to best serve the needs of the estate, or whether you as an individual would qualify to be appointed as the administrator, we at the Dodson Legal Group can assist you with your estate plan and the administration thereof.