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The Importance of Updating Your Will – Part 2

In last week’s post, I talked about two recent estate administration cases in our office.  In each instance the decedent left a will but no living executor was available to serve.

In the first case, the two children who inherited the estate equally were not named because at the time the will was executed they were too young to serve.  They told me they wished to now serve as administrators together.  This wouldn’t be a problem since as the closest relatives, under the New Jersey statute they each had first right to serve.

The home is the primary asset, which they do not want to sell for the moment.  There also is a small amount in a bank account.  We applied on their behalf but they were upset when I informed them that they would need to post a bond to back up the assets.

“But, we are the only heirs”, they replied.  “Why do we have to pay several thousand dollars for a bond?”  I explained that the court typically insists on it to protect any creditors.  If the creditors don’t get paid, the surety company will make payment.  The two children insisted that the estate debt was small and had already been taken care of.  The court, however, doesn’t know that until an accounting is submitted at the conclusion of the administration.  I explained that their dad could have designated them as co-executors and waived the bond requirement but since that did not happen the bond would be required.

The second case was a bit more complicated.  The decedent had named his two daughters as executor and alternate excecutor but both died.  His son-in-law wished to be designated as administrator.  He was not, however, the closest relation entitled to serve.  There were 3 grandchildren.  One was a minor, the second had been declared incompetent and had a guardian appointed and the third had substance abuse issues.

I explained that we would need to file a request upon notice to the 3 grandchildren (or their legal representative).  Each would have the opportunity to oppose the application or request to be appointed.  It would be the judge’s decision to choose an administrator and again, there would be the requirement of obtaining a bond.

Ultimately, the estate in each instance will be administered and the creditors and  heirs will receive their rightful portion of the estate.  Failure to update the will, however, insures that the process will be more time consuming, more expensive and more complicated than it needed to be.

What these examples make clear is that while it is important to execute a will it is equally important to update a will to avoid the type of situations outlined above.