Will your executor or trust administrator be left in the cold?

Michelle Ungvarsky
Michele Ungvarsky of Estrada Law is an estate planning attorney. She can be reached at 556-2462.
As a person puts together his or her estate plan, there is a need to think about how it will be administered. Wills and trusts administration can be a complex process, although having an estate plan in place is without a doubt one of the best ways to simplify it. Another way to improve the outcome of the administration is to prepare the executor (called personal representative in New Mexico) or successor trustee of the estate thoroughly.

The executor or successor trustee will be taking care of many different details related to wills and trust administration. To improve that person’s efficiency and, therefore, make the most of your estate plan, start by talking with the person you want to perform the job and ensure that he or she is willing and able to do so. It is possible that you could name someone as the executor or successor trustee of the estate intending it to be an honor, but the person feels like it is a burden or unwanted responsibility. Keep in mind that this does not make the person uncaring; rather, it allows you to name someone who will do the job willingly and well. Be sure to choose someone with good business sense and a determination to complete tasks. I can give you several stories about probates stalled for years because the executor lost interest or the job was harder than they anticipated. In some of those cases the executor has to be replaced, and this leads to more delay and expense for the estate.

You can also smooth the process for the executor or successor trustee by actually discussing the contents of your estate plan with him or her, as well as with other family members and friends who will be affected. If this is uncomfortable for you or if you prefer to keep your estate plan private, at least write out some directions and explanations. It is hard to foresee what kinds of problems could arise during wills and trusts administration, so laying things out in advance can help avoid surprises later. Family dynamics is an incredibly personal and complicated thing, and the estate plan will likely need to take them into consideration. So, if one family member has a problem with addiction, a grandchild has a disability or one sibling is substantially wealthier than others, these are all possible reasons a plan would not look the way everyone expected. Preparing the family, and the executor or successor trustee, can avoid drama later—including but not limited to someone trying to contest the estate.

Keeping the executor apprised of potentially upsetting aspects of the estate plan can help them navigate the wills and trusts administration later, especially since they will be clear on your intentions and, therefore, better armed to carry them out. You can bolster the executor or trust administrator’s abilities by arranging a meeting with an estate planning lawyer to understand what they can expect and to gain insight into things like taxes, court costs, paying off debt, and so on. With a little guidance up front, the wills and trust administration can run as smoothly as possible. To help understand the value of a life plan, attend one our free educational workshops; call 556-2462 to reserve your seat or check our website at EstradaLawPC.com for more information.