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Estates Left Unattended – Part 2

In my post last week I explained that while probating a will is not necessary in each and every instance, when there is a need – because there is an asset that can’t be administered any other way – there is a danger in not attending to this need.  The risk is that some or all of the assets can be lost for ever.

We see this time and again in our office.  Currently we have a case in our office of a client for whom we prepared a will, who then passed away.  Her executor, a friend who was also the sole heir of the estate, decided he did not want our help in administering the estate but rather preferred to handle it himself.  Except that he didn’t finish the job before he died.

The assets included a house and several bank accounts which he did not transfer into his name before he died.  He also never paid the inheritance tax that he owed as a Class D beneficiary.  By the time his family called us for help it was almost a year after he died.

As it turns out, the executor also never executed his own last will and testament so New Jersey’s intestacy laws predetermined which family members would inherit his estate.  That estate included his own assets plus those he was entitled to from our client’s estate – provided those assets were not “eaten up” by taxes and other charges which remained unpaid, together with interest and late fees that continued to accrue.

His family appealed to us for help.  I was able to apply to the court to be appointed administrator of our client’s estate so I could complete the administration.  Once appointed, however, I found a bit of a mess because so much time had expired and nothing had been done.  In order to preserve the house and other assets I had to act quickly.  

Next week I’ll tell you what I found.