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Wills-- A simple matter?

The first thing any lawyer will ask if you are the administrator of an estate is. “Was there a Will?” Without it, he knows the law and knows what to do. The laws vary in each state, and most often it becomes a matter of the estate being divided up into equal proportions among the surviving children. In this article we are talking about the last surviving parent.

One would think that dividing up small estate equally with two brothers would be a simple task.

Not so!

My Dad fortunately had a Will and the proceeds for the estate were to be divided equally between my brother and me. That sounded simple enough. My Dad realized that his sons were very different and he appointed me Administrator. Everyone knew that the “black sheep” brother was not likely to administer much of anything to anyone except himself. He was alone in the world, shifted around from job to job and thought little of sleeping under a bridge. A free spirit—you get the idea.

We had two items that needed attention, an automobile and a trailer that was worth around $50 thousand dollars. My Dad passed away in Florida and my wife and I drove from Michigan in order to take care of the details. My brother showed up promptly and insisted he wanted the vehicle. (He had never owned one!) Florida law is great in that regard and a trip to the local government office with the death certificate in hand passed it directly to him. He loved it and I didn’t mind seeing him own it.

However, the trailer needed probate and I needed to sell it. He wanted to move in free and clear and let me pay the bills. If he were a forthright person, he would have paid me my share and he could have lived there. Only problem with that was he had no money and the bank would not be excited about a homeless, jobless person wanting a take out a mortgage, even though it would have been a mere hundred a month.

Yep—I had to sell it, alright. He ran back to California to bask in the Sun and waited for the oldest son to take care of all the details and one day send him his half. Nearly a year later, I had a buyer for the trailer. Papers were signed. Lawyers were involved. All I needed was his signature on the sales agreement and mortgage papers. Simple enough! Nope! His childhood buddy was a lawyer (who worked for free) and he talked him into representing him in the matter. Nope he wanted 2/3 of the estate or he would not sign. He emailed “his figures” and stood firm.

The buyers were waiting.

Three weeks went by while the buyers sat patiently.

The offer expired.

Was the sale lost?

I was maintaining the property with my own funds.

We were fortunate to have a buyer in the weak market. Rather than lose the sale, my brother ended up with the 2/3. Would my father have wanted that? Nope, he worked hard in the Will to make it clear that my brother would have no say in the matter. No one realized that the “benefactor” brother’s signature would be required to sell the property. This oversight caused the estate to go lopsided to my brother. Some would say it was blackmail.

Based upon this unfortunate experience, I’d recommend that splitting up a small estate should mention specific amounts in the Will. Had this been done, my brother would have had no reason to holdout for more.

Percentages do not work at all. Everyone has heard that fighting among the children over an estate is an everyday occurrence. Believe it. It is the “percentage concept” that brings it all about. Figures can be disputed. Lawyers can be brought it to raise the dispute to a new threshold.

My advice is to set specific amounts to each benefactor and give the balance, either to the administrator or to charity. The Will could be updated from time to time in the event the actual equity in an estate changed. It is unfortunate that benefactors’ of a Will need to “Sign off” on property. This places them in a position to hold out for more and when buyers are waiting in the wings with money in hand, monies can end up in unwelcome places.

Had my Dad and I jointly owned the property with rights to survivor, this whole affair would never have happened.

One can calculate that the worst side of a benefactor will emerge when settling an estate. Greed will rule.

Imagine that you have several siblings and need to settle an estate. Those who are kind and benevolent will need to fight those who are greedy. If the gentler siblings merely stand back, they will have their fair share taken from them. So they to must take a firm stand in order to get a fair shake. So often, we hear of brothers and sisters who will never speak to each other after an inheritance is settled.

We are back to the “percentage” concept.

It doesn’t work.

If you are in line for an inheritance, do your best to get the percentages out and exact numbers into it. Lawyers probably won’t support the idea. They make money from the dispute!

Print this article and show it to your parents. I am going to assume that you are a Christian principled person and that your brothers and sisters may be less inclined. They will not back you up with this concept. Nope, they will oppose it. “Hey—you are worried about nottun’!” they will claim. Of course this is a sure sign they have sinister plans, the moment that Dad passes away. There is no need to discuss any of this with them as far as I’m concerned.

If you are selected to be the Administrator, that is a sign you are the principled one in the family. I would suggest you get your Dad (or Mom) to tackle this important document with you firmly in charge and then make it clear to others that these details are none of their business.

RJ

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This is an opinion piece. RJ is not recommending any advice to anyone. RJ is not a qualified estate planner.

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Discover how to keep scams to seniors from happening to you! Read "Seeds from Heaven" for the real scoop on the latest scams.

"Lean against the Wind" is the first five part installment of “Seeds from Heaven.”

Read more about “Lean against the Wind” an eBook now available worldwide.

Purchase Lean against the Wind at Amazon.com.

Senior Citizen Estate Scams are a billion dollar business

Critcal Reviews of Fantasy books by Jenny (including Lean against the Wind & Watchdogg)

"Lean against the Wind" and "Up the Down Staircase"

Get involved with the Will if you are going to be the "Administrator."

Rj talks about Inhertance scams in "Lean against the Wind"

The author writes about senior scams and rip-offs in his novel

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Reynold Jay says YOU must become involved in the writing up of a Will if you are to become the Administrator of an Estate. 21 comments

Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

Up and very useful, Mr. Jay. I think my husband and I will be having a talk soon about his parents, because we have a family member on his side less than stable, and more than greedy. My parents are both gone, but it's also important that he and I discuss wills and living wills for ourselves, what will all of his issues. Interesting hub, and again, very useful and informative!


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

Hi Michele, It sounds like you have this on your mind and that is good. Never a rush of course. If there is a greedy one out there, you can bet you will have problems. The Will is where you gotta take of this. Love ya! RJ


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

I find this very interesting, although the law is different here, but a lot of the same problems can arise.


lilian1 profile image

lilian1 5 years ago from Hertfordshire England

Very good advice Reynold thanks for the information :)


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

Christopher--The laws vary everywhere and every estate is different. I imagine that difficult relatives are nearly everywhere ( like weeds) and can manage to create problems whatever the laws may be!

Lilian: I had to read the Chocoholic HUB you wrote too. I operated a string of confections stores for three decades and can appreciate a fine chocolate. Thank goodness that large Easter egg isn't in my back yard, 'cause i would eat it! Thanks for stopping by. I


angie ashbourne profile image

angie ashbourne 5 years ago

Hi! Reynold Your Hub has good advice.


sueswan 5 years ago

Very informative!


cajunguy profile image

cajunguy 5 years ago from Texas and Louisiana

When my ex's grandmother died we all drove in and met at the house. The daughter, my ex's aunt, had come in early and cleaned out all the jewelry and personal belongings before anyone else arrived, "justified" with a typed will with no signatures.

Good advice.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

You got off easy! At least the shysters were your own kin.Good people would have looked at the unsigned will and insisted that it be followed--Like that would ever happen!


KK Trainor profile image

KK Trainor 5 years ago from Texas

Hi Reynold,

When my grandmother passed away my brother and I were the only heirs. She was so concerned with how things would be dealt with that she had even picked out her clothing and taken it to the funeral home ahead of time. Everything that could be planned ahead was done, and we really didn't have to make any decisions. She had a trust with an attorney's office so they dealt with the legal stuff. This was good because we were young and had never dealt with anyone's funeral before. My grandmother had written out certain things she wanted given to specific people, but other than that it was up to my brother and myself to divide things up. It was a very large estate. We kept it civil and it went smoothly, but I can see where it could be a real nightmare for some. Very useful and interesting hub.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

KK Trainor, Your experience demonstrates how good planning can make it all so easy. A Trust is often needed for a large estate and having a Trust at all indicates that she was aware of the needs of the estate. She must have made the attorney the administrator of the estate and that takes the burden off the benefactors from having to deal with the many details. Thanks for reading the article and you may find yourself discussing knowlegeably with others on the subject. RJ


RandomThoughts... profile image

RandomThoughts... 5 years ago from Washington

hank you for your advice. I have aging parents and two siblings. All I have asked my parents is if they have a Will. They hadn't updated it at the time. My one concern was not to let the state get all the money. With aging parents, I know it is important that they have all this taken care of.

QUESTION...

I don't know any polite way to bring up this subject without looking like I am waiting for them to kick the bucket...Any suggestions??


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

I'd show them this article and try to get one of them to read "Lean against the Wind" OR read it yourself and then you can knowledgeable discuss the details. You could say that they can best show their love for you by addressing this task so that YOU will receive the assets as they wish, rather than the lawyers and shysters that are out there. You understand the details of course, If they want you to have the home for example, get your name on the deed. It will cost you a few hundred dollars and an hour of your time now rather than thousands later on. Lean against the Wind will terrify you with what can happen.


RandomThoughts... profile image

RandomThoughts... 5 years ago from Washington

Thanks for the advice. I think I will copy this for now...and then get the book. :)


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

Random Thoughts, Write back any time. The nature of settling estates is that each one is different. There is no "One size fits all."I know you will get this started, and act inyour own ( and your parents) best interest now that you are aware of this. Be careful not to upset siblings too. It is like walking on eggshells with these matters.


CreativeReaction profile image

CreativeReaction 5 years ago from Virginia

This is solid advice. I learned the lesson from parents not having a will six years ago when they passed together. Luckily for me, there was no family drama. We were emotionally spent and did not even want to fight over anything. The only thing we had to worry about was property being handed over to the state since there was no will determining where it was to go. Parents do take heed.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

Hmmm...The State got the property? OR did they sell it and distribute the proceeds to the children?


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 5 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

Very useful RJ. We have three homes near us that have not been lived in for 10 years because of will disputes.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

Hi John--that I can very well understand!


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

To Reynold Jay: This was a very informative and educational hub. Thank you very much for enlightening us.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan Author

I read over a half dozen of your parenting HUBS. Very nicely written and I can see that this HUB fits in with your interests. Thank you for taking time to comment.

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