Klenk Law

Tag: Probate Lawyer

Burlington County Personal Representative Liability.

Posted on Tue Sep 29, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My aunt’s will names me as her Personal Representative and divides the estate between all of her nieces and nephews. We are not a close family and there have been disputes in the past. I am worried that my cousins will be angry that I was named the Personal Representative and may cause trouble. Can they sue me as the Personal Representative?

If you agree to be sworn in by the Surrogate as the estate’s Personal Representative, you will then have a fiduciary duty to all beneficiaries to act in their best interest. You will be given broad powers and be largely unsupervised by the Surrogate.

To counter these broad powers, the beneficiaries are given the right to petition Surrogate’s Court to review every action and expense. Should the court find that any action of yours reduced their inheritance, the judge could choose to surcharge you (fine you) to make up for any loss.

Are New Jersey Wills registered anyway?

Posted on Mon Sep 28, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My father died recently. I have been told he had a will done in 2007, but I can’t find it. Where would it be registered?

A will is not usually registered anywhere until the person dies. Normally, it is kept by the lawyer who drafted the will or in a safe location in the house. If you didn’t find it in the house or in a safe deposit box, then you are left to backtrack over time to find the lawyer. This can be a challenge.

My firm sends out summaries of the documents we draft every 4 months to stay in contact with our clients. The attorney who drafted your father’s will may have a similar practice, so watch the mail. Probate is started by having the executor named in the will file the will with the Surrogate. If you can’t find a will, then you can open the estate via Administration. It would be wise to retain an experienced probate lawyer to help you and, if you think there maybe conflict with siblings if there is no will, retain a firm experienced with estate related litigation.

How do I close an estate in Bucks County, Pennsylvania?

Posted on Thu Sep 24, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I have served as the executor for my grandfather’s Bucks County estate for over a year and wish to close the estate, but my uncle claims that I have embezzled money from the estate. This is unfounded, but how can I close the estate while he makes these claims?

As the executor, you could make an “at risk” distribution of the estate assets. This means you distribute the money without getting a release. This is not advisable, as your uncle could then use his inheritance to hire a Bucks County Orphans’ Court Lawyer to force you to file a formal account. Because you would have distributed the estate funds, this cost would come out of your pocket.

Per Stirpes: Can An Illegitimate Son Inherit From My Father’s Estate?

Posted on Fri Sep 18, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: After my father’s death, a man arrived claiming to be my father’s illegitimate son. The will says that my father’s estate is divided between his heirs, “per stirpes.” Can this man get a share of the estate?

Per Stirpes

The phrase “per stirpes” literally means “by the branch”; distributing an estate equally down the bloodline. So, if your father did not exclude this man and if he is truly your father’s son, then he gets a share of the estate. The estate can demand that he take a DNA test to prove he is your father’s son. This is possible by using your blood and that of your siblings. However, this may require a Petition and order from the Orphans’ Court. Therefore it would be wise for the Personal Representative to retain an experienced Estate Litigation Attorney.

Festive Funeral Directives and Payment from Estate

Posted on Tue Sep 15, 2015, on Funeral Directive

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My father recently died a resident of Philadelphia and I am the executor of his estate. The will says that he wants $5,000 spent for his wake at his favorite stripper bar. My sister is going to be upset. Can she stop me from honoring dad’s wishes? I read on your site that funerals and wakes are deductible. Is a wake at a striper bar deductible?

In some cultures, the wake is a festive event. In others, it is a somber event.

Your dad went for festive.

His putting his wish in the will and giving you a specific dollar amount puts you on firm ground. If he had just told you this wish without putting it into writing, your sister could more easily stop the wake or later demand that you pay for it out of your share.

When is an Estate closed in New Jersey? Need to Know Information

Posted on Fri Sep 11, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the Personal Representative for my mother’s estate. I have paid all of the creditors and have distributed the estate to my siblings and myself. I don’t think I have anything left to do, how do I close the estate?

Saying that an estate is “closed” is a misnomer, as the estate is never, really closed. The term refers to when the final assets of the estate are distributed, which normally means that the Personal Representative has no further work to perform. This takes place after the family settlement is signed.

Distinguishing Between Loans and Gifts in Philadelphia

Posted on Thu Sep 10, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My brother has had money problems his whole life. At various times my parents lent him money and he made a few efforts to repay, but he owed most of it still at their deaths. As executor I brought these loans up and he now says they were gifts, not loans. We split the estate equally, but if he gets to say these were gifts he will have ended up with much more money than I, which is unfair. What can I do?

As the executor you are tasked with gathering the estate assets. Loans are assets, so you do have the right to gather information to prove the validity of the loans. As executor you also have the right to hire professionals to assist you, such as accountants and attorneys.

It is time for you to hire a professional to review the evidence and advise you. You could take the position that these are loans and reduce his share of the estate, but if he refuses to sign a release he will be free in the future to file a petition forcing you to account and demanding a larger share of the estate.

Can I be reimbursed for my mileage while I cared for my mother-in-law?

Posted on Wed Sep 9, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Before she died, my mother-in-law lived in Delaware County, Pennsylvania and I drove from the Jersey Shore every weekend to take care of her. Now that she has died, her estate is being divided up between her children and they refuse to compensate me for all the miles I traveled taking care of their mother. Can I make a claim to be paid?

Your mother-in-law’s estate is to be divided up between the heirs as her will dictates, or through the rules of intestacy if she had no will. Prior to the division of the assets, all her creditors will be paid. If you had no agreement showing that you were to be reimbursed, it will be difficult to prove that you are a creditor.

As executor, can I donate estate assets for a PA charitable deduction?

Posted on Tue Sep 8, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother died and I was named Executor of her estate. The estate is divided equally between myself and my brother and sister. She had so many things in her house that none of us want. Can I give these to charity and then take a deduction on the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return?

If I have the facts correct, all assets are equally divided between you three siblings. This includes all personal property. If so, then the right to collect the property is with the children and the Commonwealth’s Inheritance Tax is due on the fair market value of those things. The tax for children is 4.5%.

Is an executor for a Chester County estate liable for damages?

Posted on Fri Sep 4, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother named me executor, but I don’t get along so well with my brother and I am afraid he will sue me. Can I be personally liable as the executor?

The executor is a fiduciary, owning a duty of care to the beneficiaries. If your brother is an heir, he has the right to review all actions you have taken as executor and, if he feels any action you took reduced his inheritance, as the judge to surcharge you (fine you) so he receives the correct inheritance.

In many ways, being executor is a thankless task.

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