Making a will and keeping it up to date are only part of what people need to do to ensure their wishes are properly carried out after death.
That message was brought home in a recent Forbes magazine article, which the writer referred to as a “tale of caution.”
“The cast includes a 73-year-old high-school-educated homemaker named executor of a nonagenarian cousin’s will, an attorney who was battling brain cancer, seven distant relatives and three charities all due a piece of a $12.5 million estate, and an Internal Revenue Service bill for $1.2 million in penalties and interest for failure to file an estate tax return and pay taxes on time levied on the estate,” according to the story. “In an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit filed in February, the executor is trying to recover the $1.2 million. The question at hand: was her failure to file the return and pay the tax on time due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect?”
“What’s the lesson? Even if you have an expert, you have to pay attention to the matters at hand,” the article quotes Jon Hoffheimer, a lawyer who the court appointed to administer the estate as a co-fiduciary with the executor in question after it became clear that she wasn’t up to the task.
Most people, the story goes on to point out, choose a friend or relative as executor, while relying on an estate attorney to ensure a proper will is on file.
“But it’s the executor who bears the ultimate responsibility to make sure it’s done, on time,” the article notes.
The best approach, professionals in the story advise, is to clearly list all the duties of an executor under the terms of the will and have that person sign the document long before these actions have to be taken.