My mother is 87 years old with early stages Parkinsonism and lives in California. My stepdad is a few years younger and is in poor health, primarily with COPD and mobility issues. Neither of them drives. They currently live in an apartment but have plans to move to an Assisted Living community, perhaps in February 2020.

Mom has asked me to be the executrix of her estate. It will bypass probate, as there is no real estate, and her bank accounts and money market funds have designated beneficiaries. She has no valuables to distribute to her heirs. (Her private-hire caregivers stole her jewelry.) Her husband will get all their community property.

Mom consulted an attorney who said that her will could be handled without legal assistance. It's "just" a matter of contacting her insurance companies, the Social Security office, stopping her pension payments, closing her credit card accounts, filing her taxes, etc. I have a long list of companies to call and deal with when the time comes. Mom's husband feels he can handle none of this, and Mom agrees. My siblings, who live in Louisiana but have visited Mom this year, have helped Mom amass the information I need but won't help with the post-death work.

I live in Arkansas. To make the many phone calls, fax/email death certificates, handle the taxes, and such, will take me many hours. I called the attorney today to ask if I would have legal right to compensation for the work I will put in. Since her estate has zero value (other than the money accounts that have beneficiaries), he said no compensation would be awarded unless Mom states such compensation in writing. She has not done so. I am sure Stepdad would not offer. I think Mom would be upset if I asked her for payment for my time, though the attorney would charge $325 an hour if Stepdad had to hand it over to him. Of course, Stepdad-- not Mom--would be paying my bill, but I don't think she would see it that way.

I am actually asking if anyone has advice for how to handle out-of-state situations like this. I am afraid I am setting myself up for a nightmare. I don't even know how to get the document that allows me to contact all these companies to settle Mom's estate. I don't want to be legally responsible for handling all these duties and run the risk of messing up.


This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Find Care & Housing
Wow, Igloo! Thanks for a ton of great information!

To answer your question, the beneficiaries of Mom's money market accounts are her husband, myself and three grandchildren. Stepdad will get the money in the bank accounts and the life insurance policies.

Mom and Stepdad are very aware (and fearful) that they might outlive their money. That is why they have waited so long to make the move to AL.

I realize that, in an effort to ease my mother's mind, I have put myself in a bad situation. Yet, as AlvaDeer pointed out, I can still decline. With the information I have gotten on this thread, I have decided to let Mom know that I cannot serve. It's interesting that the California attorney made it sound like a piece of cake to handle the details out of state, and didn't seem interested in doing the work at all. You are right in that there will be no big bucks in it for him, though $325 an hour would surely cover his light bill!
Helpful Answer (0)

“Wants me to be her Executrix...her estate... will bypass probate”.
To me, as one who has been executor, it doesn’t work that way. Also couple of other things I’d be concerned abt too...

First, If she has no assets to comprise an estate then there is nothing for you to be executor for. Also “Executor” doesn’t just happen. To be named executor, in my experience, a legal filing has to be done in probate court (PC) of a valid will that names you so judge can issue Letters Testamentary in which you are named to have authority to administer (either dependent or independent) assets of estate. Initial filing will have a pretty precise format, requires original will or codicil & done via atty portal or by individual named in will at the Courthouse. Has costs to do. County website should have their costs posted.

BUT if - right now - everything she has as assets is already set up to go outside of probate to after death beneficiary’s, those items really not a problem for Executor to have to deal with. Unless executor wants to. It’s up to whomever named beneficiary to do. Like for her life insurance policy beneficiary to submit their claim; or up to whomever named POD on bank accounts to go to bank & get the $ POD (pay on death); or fill out title transfer & CH filings on a house TOD (transfer on death). It’s not necessarily Executor problem as not part of estate. It’s stuff outside of probate.

If your mom has it that there really truly is no $ to her estate or to You as executor to use to pay estate costs, then it’s purely your purse to pay whatever with no compensation. There's not an asset of estate placed into docket at probate court that you can file your very own claims against the estate for expenses for administration of estate. If no estate assets, You’d take this on out of a sense of familial duty without compensation. If no assets probably why atty (& your family too I’ll bet) wants this to become someone else’s monkey.

Also I’d ask atty now for written option as to how PC for moms jurisdiction views out of state executors. I’ll guess that you will NOT be able to be named for independent administration. It will be a dependent administration & so actions have to be filed to the docket and signed off by PC judge before paperwork can go forward. & That you will need to put up a bond (so you need to be qualified for a bond) to be named executor; AND need a known to the court local probate atty of counsel who does filings. You’re getting into t...i...m...e & $ if dependent.

Even if you do this, if no estate assets, what are you going to be administering? Paying for death certificates; spending time to find life insurance policies for a beneficiary? Going with stepdad to close out joint accounts you get no $ from?

Normally you have to appear in person to be named Executor; in person for in-chambers meetings as well as initial meeting with probate attorney. LTR/LAX travel costs for sure. Plus per diem costs. And probably atty & bonding costs. If no home to pay costs on, I’d say 15k minimum for you as Executor in a not to be touched bank account or auto renewed CD / Tbill that’s co-owned now & POD to you only. Would mom agree to this?

out of curiosity, who are the beneficiaries?
if mom won’t move $15k, then perhaps whomever gets the anticipated biggest payout should be named the executor in a new codicil. Move the Monkey to someone set to get $ from mom.

also realize she may be around another 5 years & by then needing not AL but a NH. She cashes in CD, & life insurance. There could be no $.
Helpful Answer (0)

Thank you, Barb. That is a good suggestion regarding payment. I've been thinking about telling Mom that I will keep a log of my hours and submit them at whatever minimum wage is at the time. NOBODY is going to do it cheaper than that. And you're right. If she says no, I'm off the hook.

Mom's attorney charges by the hour. Every time I call him, the bill will run up. Yet I will be calling him often because I don't know the legal aspects of what needs to be done. AlvaDeer has really opened my eyes as to what I am getting myself into.
Helpful Answer (2)

Mom is currently paying an attorney for advice. Take this opportunity to have him send you step by step instructions on what you will need to do.

If you dont want to be an unpaid personal representative for mom after her death, state that fact. "Mom, this is a lot of work that I will need to do. I need to be able to be paid for at least 10? 20? hours of my time at $20 per hour in order to do this. A lawyer would charge stepdad much more."

If your mom declines your offer, you're off the hook.
Helpful Answer (2)

Thank you, AlvaDeer. I was not aware that there are options, other than an attorney, when family members do not handle these tasks. I will look into this.
Helpful Answer (0)

If you are not comfortable doing this, then you can refuse to serve after the death of a parent. The courts will then appoint a fiduciary to settle matters. Tell your parent that this is your plan, and ask if they have anyone else, a friend, a banker, a fiduciary they can appoint in your stead. They could consult an elder law attorney to ask what the best option is when family doesn't wish to serve.
Helpful Answer (3)
AlvaDeer Nov 2019
I recently took over as POA and Trustee of Trust for my bro. It is a lot of work. He is living and has a simple trust and bills, and still everyone wants something different, from DMV to IRS to SS to Medicare. EVERYone. This made me let my partner know that I will NOT serve as executor and successor trustee on his account, and he has appointed a younger friend, who will be paid to accomplish all of that. It is a lot of work, a lot of filing, a lot especially when you are out of state or even of COUNTY. Get a book on serving as executor and you will see that the FIRST thing they say is to decide if you wish to ACCEPT this appointment. It is hard once accepted to get out of it without good reason of health or mental capability, but in the beginning you must file that you are either willing or not willing to accept the duty. If you say not, then someone will be appointed. They will be paid according to court schedules. Sounds there will be little left but TROUBLE so I would just tell your parent you intend to decline, that you are sorry, but it is not easy and you do not feel up to it.
See 1 more reply
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter