Much to your surprise, your late father chose his younger brother as the executor of his estate. You do not know Uncle Ned well; he is a life-long bachelor and likes to travel. Your dad used to say that Ned “was good at spending money.”
You are therefore a bit nervous. You wonder if Ned understands his job as executor and will be diligent in protecting the assets of your father’s trust so that proper distributions can be made to you and your sisters.
The duties of an executor
As executor, your uncle will, in essence, become a chief administrator. He will begin by distributing the death certificate to the funeral home, the Social Security Administration, the life insurance company and similar parties. He will be in charge of financial matters, such as paying debts from the assets of the estate. If your father did not provide an accounting of his monthly income and expenses, Ned will have to figure it all out. He will also need to file a final income tax return. In the end, he will be in charge of distributing whatever assets remain.
The right choice?
Your father may have known that although Ned was good at spending money, he was also good at shrewd management and had good business instincts. He was also several years younger, so your dad felt that he would probably be around to act as executor when the time came.
Seeking professional help
If Ned is as smart as your father thought he was, he will not attempt to handle matters with which he is unfamiliar. Until an executor is able to review a decedent’s will or trust documents, he does not know how complex the estate is or how complicated his duties will be. If he feels unsure about certain aspects of his responsibilities, Ned can seek guidance from professionals like an attorney, an accountant or an appraiser.
On the other hand, if you continue to have concerns or if you feel Uncle Ned has failed in his fiduciary duty, you, too, can seek guidance from an attorney experienced with estate planning as to what your next steps should be.