Seattle residents may be counseled to only consider those that they completely trust to serve as their executors or personal representatives. While that advice may be sound, it means that many may often be asked to serve in such roles that are not familiar with the state’s probate code or the estate administration process in general. Such knowledge may not be a requirement to serve an executor (there are plenty of resources available to assist one in the execution of such duties), yet it may prove beneficial should unique situations arise that test legal procedural limitations.
Take the case of an Indiana family: though the family included three sons and three daughters, only one of each was asked to serve as co-executors of their mother’s estate. The three sisters later questioned their brothers’ motives in having their mother transfer assets to them prior to her death, thus depleting the overall value of the estate that was meant to be distributed amongst the six siblings equally. They eventually sued the brother serving as executive, yet were forced to bring their claim in trial court due to the fact that the timely filing limits of the probate court had already passed. The judge hearing the case allowed it to proceed, yet the brother appealed saying that the matter needed to be argued in probate court. The appellate court ultimately confirmed the judge’ ruling, stating that since the probate court filing limits had passed, the only remedy available to the sisters was in trial court.
This case may serve to illustrate exactly how complicated estate administration proceedings can become (particularly when they involve disputes amongst beneficiaries). It may behoove those managing them to seek the assistance of an attorney to help deal with such matters.