Author Topic: Hire a Fiduciary for estate executor? What do you do if you've no family?  (Read 3908 times)

The Pigeon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 126
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Now *I* drive the bus! *FIREd*!
Having just read another thread here about estate planning... I need to get my will done. But I am single, with no children and no remaining family. :-/ (well, there are some distant twice-removed cousins with whom I have no relationship).

This causes a bit of bother in the estate-planning department -- I have no one to name as an executor or heir. The heir thing can be taken care of with gifts to friends and charity, but the executorship?

My mother had appointed a fiduciary in her elderhood, and despite it being rather expensive, the fiduciary's assistance and knowledge upon the passing of my mother were invaluable (along with the elder-affairs-expert lawyer).

So I'm wondering, as someone who would have no one to take care of my affairs if I were to get smashed by a falling piano tomorrow, if hiring a fiduciary would be a logical choice or if there might be some other solution I haven't thought of. (I'm not asking opinions of the cost/budgeting to hire a fiduciary, I know it is expensive. I'm asking for ideas, in my situation, to put someone (who?) in charge of my legal affairs and estate when I cork).

Does anyone else here have another idea to deal with arranging for an executor when you have no relatives or heirs?
I know most folks have family, but I can't be the only one here with none.
I need to get the estate planning on the runway, so your thoughts would be appreciated!
 (And don't just list your names/requests for inclusion in the will. ;-) haha)

The Pij
« Last Edit: June 15, 2015, 11:16:50 AM by The Pigeon »

forestbound

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 245
  • Location: midwest
Isn't there a close friend you could name? You will need to name someone for Healthcare Power of Attorney, do you have someone for that? I would use a trusted friend before hiring a fiduciary, as long as you trust their judgements, and believe they would honor your wishes.

milliemchi

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 316
I am also very interested in this, except that I also have kids, so it's important that everything is actually executed properly.  I do have friends, but most are either not close enough to impose such a task on them, or live in other states, or have enough of their own problems. No family that can help with this.

I would also really like to know how much of a burden this task would be, can it be done remotely from another state, how long would it typically take, all assuming that most assets pass outside of probate (beneficiaries on accounts etc.). If anyone has any experience to share, please do.

The Pigeon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 126
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Now *I* drive the bus! *FIREd*!
Milliemche,

I can answer some of that.
 Executorship is a huge job. It takes a lot of time, effort, organization, and money.  It's not the kind of task most people would want  to do on top of an already busy life,  Plus,   Since an executor is likely someone close to you, the job comes coupled with  grief from the loss of a loved one.  A dear friend of mine was named executor of one of her friends estates, and it took the better part of the year  to  finish all the legal and administrative tasks needed to close the estate.   In all truthfulness, it's not a job you really want to burden one of your friends or relatives with, but someone's got to do it.

 In my mother's case, before she passed,  we vetted and assembled a team consisting of the fiduciary and a lawyer.  She lived on the East Coast, I live on the West Coast.  With this helpful team in place, it was very easy to manage a good portion of the task remotely from the opposite coast. 
 I, of course, flew immediately to her town when the time came, and I spent three weeks doing those things that required in-person meetings. Many of those tasks could have been done remotely as well,  but a lot of them I could do myself, and not pay somebody else to do for me.

 Once I returned home, the fiduciary and the lawyer  were able to handle all the rest of the tasks to get the estate closed, and sell the property she owned. 

Per your question, Closing the estate took approximately eight months,  and everything passed outside of probate with the exception of a vehicle and  her personal possessions.

It was streamlined with those two "on the ground" in my mother's town.  I was so thankful that my mother set up this team to help when the time came, because when you're dealing with grief it's very difficult to get these things done.  And very difficult to even know what to do.  And of course bureaucracy wants things done in a certain order in a certain way and if you do it wrong it'll set you back months. I was very happy to pay for the professional help.  But I confess it did not come cheap-- but it was worth every penny for getting the job done smoothly and efficiently.

Hope that helps
-The Pigeon, who misses her mommy.

Frankies Girl

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2951
  • Age: 81
  • Location: The laboratory
  • Typical Ghoul Next Door
I've been thinking about this as well, as we plan on leaving everything to charity. I would not be worried that things are taken care of in that regard; they'll be used to overseeing the selling off of assets and distributing things. (and frankly, I'll be dead at that point and pretty sure I won't care about money then)

If we end up naming any heirs outside of a charity, then I might be inclined to vet a lawyer/firm that handles the estate stuff and make sure any will is registered in my home state, and probably provide the heirs a copy along with account info so they can proceed with the probate/estate once I am gone.

Where I live, holographic wills are legal (as long as they are completely handwritten, no witnesses required), and since we know there won't be much to complicate things we've got that right now, but we'll need to do some investigations eventually on having wills drawn up in the event that we want to set up any charitable trusts or scholarships (have been thinking along those lines).


When my dad passed a few years ago, he named my sister as the executrix as she lived close by, but he also had his lawyer involved to do the paperwork and advise on legal issues; he basically gave her a step by step list of what to do and when to do it and she followed along. Sister mostly did the bill paying and kept up with the accounts that needed any attention and mailed stuff out. It was very overwhelming for her as she is not very organized and dad's death hit her very hard, but it was just the two of us as heirs, so I was fine with her taking whatever time she needed as long as she kept me in the loop.

My dad had a long term relationship with his lawyer; he was both an estate planner and also his accountant, so it was pretty easy to just use him to get through the process. It also helped that he only charged us a very small flat fee to keep him as a consultant for the entire process.

Honestly I would name a trusted friend or distant family member if the estate isn't hugely complicated and they are used to keeping up with stuff, and the heirs get along okay (so no angry backstabbing to worry about). Bonus is that they can take the executor's fee for their time/trouble. But I would say if your executor/trix is not good with handling money/paperwork, then name someone else. And if there is the least little idea that they might have trouble with the other heirs, get an impartial party to do it.



Oh, and Milliemche - just in case - don't try to put your heirs on real property like a house to avoid probate; that means the heirs lose their stepped up cost advantage when they inherit, and on things like a house or antiques or things of that nature, the gains could cause then a significant tax event if handled wrong. Some things do need to go through probate to gain the best advantage for the heirs. Accounts like investments and bank accounts - totally do them as "transfer on death" or have beneficiaries set up, but real property should be governed by your will. Definitely discuss with an estate lawyer and do your research on that since you do have kids you want to benefit in the best possible way.

And closing an estate takes as long as your state requires; my dad's state required a newspaper notice of his death and any and all debts owed would have to be claimed on the estate no later than 6 months from the newspaper notice, so the earliest we could have closed the estate would be 6 months after that notice. It still took just under a year (needed to do the final taxes for the estate too), but that seems to be average for most estates of any value.





GizmoTX

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1347
DS is almost 22, single, with no siblings & considerable net worth. He has a will & his executor/fiduciary is an investment bank if we are deceased or incapable at the time he dies. There is no one else at the present time that he can trust to handle it. We have the same fall back provision in our wills, which become trusts when DH or I die. DS can replace the fiduciary of the trusts with another if he wants to.

The Pigeon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 126
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Now *I* drive the bus! *FIREd*!
@Gizmo,

So an investment bank offers fiduciary services?

I wonder if the big commercial banks do (I know they administer trusts).

In my mother's case, we hired a small business fiduciary service (proprietor with a few employees). They offered extremely kind, personal service, and not only took care of paying the bills/financial stuff but also (if necessary) arrange for her transportation to doctors appts, errands and even made hospital visits.

Once I figure out the executor part, then I have to figure out who to name on POA/Medical POAs.
Sheesh. It's tough being single orphan loner in this world!

Keep those ideas comin'
And thank you.

-the Pigeon

GizmoTX

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1347
Our estate attorney gave us a list of banks & fiduciaries that his firm trusts to choose the backup financial POA.

If not a trusted family member, I'd want someone medically competent & not benefiting from my will to have medical POA.

milliemchi

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 316
Thanks everyone for advice.

The Pigeon - thanks for explaining about the execution process. I kind of figured that it is a lot of trouble, and that's why I feel uncomfortable asking anyone but the closest friends to do it.  I think people can be hired to do that, and I'll look for a lawyer or someone.

Which brings me to this - I was not aware that the executor and fiduciary are two different roles. Is the fiduciary basically there to pay ongoing bills until the estate is settled? How do they gain control of my accounts (bank, etc.)?

bogart

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1045
The heir thing can be taken care of with gifts to friends and charity, but the executorship?

Depending on the charities you want to support, they may have extant programs/systems/advice in place to allow you to provide a posthumous contribution.  I'd guess if they are large ones, they will, if smaller, probably not so much.  Could be worth contacting them to ask.

JessEsq

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Lawyer here!

Take a look first at your assets and see if there will be much to probate. If your beneficiaries will be charities, friends, etc... you may be able to do POD/TOD designations on your bank and investment accounts and (in some states) even your house. You still should have a will "just in case," but the actual probate work could be little or none.

Next, you can name a friend, a lawyer, or anyone you trust. In Ohio, the Executor has to be in Ohio. The Executor is almost universally entitled to a fee and in Ohio, that's set by a schedule from the Court in most counties. But, banks can and do request additional fees, which can be expensive. Also, the executor's fee is separate from the attorney fees paid to the attorney representing the estate.

If you have a good relationship with a banker/investment advisor, you could inquire about the fee to name that institution in that role. Again, if you are able to do a lot of POD/TOD, you may have little to nothing to actually be probated.

Finally, as another reader pointed out, your choice of charity may have a person or on-staff lawyer to handle these matters. For example, the community foundation in my city invests in a lot of scholarships and community projects. A person could spell out several different uses of their funds (even though it all goes to one charity) and the community foundation can recommend a fiduciary to appoint who is familiar with the foundation's procedures and does not have incentive to pilfer the funds.

Good luck!