My mother passed away recently and left over $5000 in bills. - AgingCare.com

My mother passed away recently and left over $5000 in bills.

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My mother has enough money in her bank account to pay this, but not if the probate (lawyer, court costs) get too involved. All the siblings are letting me handle this. I had a lawyer quit on me because one of the documents was not according to state law and would require "litigation". Now, I am concerned that her money will not be enough. What do you think of this new plan? I pay all of Mom's bills (including a $1000 bequest per her will) from my own pocket. I wait 2 years when the bank will turn over Mom's money ($8000) to "unclaimed funds". Then I apply to get my share of that ($2000), and maybe even handle my siblings claims so they turn half of their's over to me (making me whole). This will give them something as with litigation will leave them with nothing. Naturally I would get their agreement up front. No lawyer fees, no court costs, no trama. Just a little waiting, and then the hoops to jump through for the unclaimed funds (lots of hoops - I have done that before). Can anybody see a problem with this solution?

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Snow - first thanks for addl details. The reason why I guessed "poorly done codicil" is cause this error is pretty common, family figure that the will done by atty was all ok, so family doing a DIY codicil is fine cause it's just attached to the old will.....big mistake as codicils seem to be reviewed more carefully than original will. Now for her will, it's valid, right? If so I'm gonna guess whatever the terms in it are what will be needed and it names a son to be executor BUT he has told his siblings he wants nothing to do with it, that's the situation, right?

Heres my suggestion....I'd probably not try to shop around states on this. Her final state of residency is going to be where probate needs to be and that's FL. Even if mom has banking in PA. Doing "foreign will" stuff is pretty common in probate, & by foreign it means assets in another state. I'd bet FL sees this all the time as folks move to FL to retire but leave things back up North.
So would the FL sister be willing to be deal with this? You -a nonFL resident - trying to be executor for a deceased legal FL resident on a fuzzy codicil that you did & benefits you (ok yeah there's no real $ but once your executor you control $) well all this makes you look bad so a judge is going to bypass you as there are other kids. So would FL sister take the lead in this? Brother could ask for her to be named executor (or co-executor) and have probate done as a dependent administration with bond (so court oversight since its exactly not as per the original & valid will).

Then you help your sister in all this.

Those 5k in bills, if they are not medical (like GA said usually the costs of final illness are priority payments for probate and the state may place a maximum on the amount) what are they? Are they unsecured debt? And are these debts likely to be written off or reduced? If i was the future executor I'd try to negotiate the debt. Certified letters with return registered receipts could be sent to creditors to ask for a reduced settlement, & I'd mention in letters that probate is anticipated to open as per FL statutes. As an aside on this, TX (where ive been executor) allows for 4 years after death for probate to even open so a letter like this places would be creditors for eventual probate on notice that it could be perhaps years & years later for them to even file as a creditor against the estate so why not instead accept a substantially reduced amount right now. Comprende? You can be real hardball on this.. If they don't bite, then it's on creditor to monitor when probate eventually opens and file a claim. Some will but most won't especially if its a small amount & they are unsecured debt. If FL is like other states, if they don't file their claim in probate within a certain time they are outside of timeframe and the executor can choose not to ever pay the debt. Executor has quite a lot of discretion in all this & one reason why who is named and all paperwork regarding naming executrix has to be valid.

Whether its fair or not for executor is not pay a claim is kinda beyond the point...if probate law allows for this, it can be done.

To me since you've muddled the water for you to be named executor, plus your not a FL resident, it's going to be sissy or brother who has to deal with this in FL. Now whatever the case, that 8k $ is frozen & stays that way for a really long time unless something is done. I'd bet bank fees are being placed on account too.......for even more fun in all this.
Really try to get siblings to figure out how to make this work for FL. Good luck
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pamstegma: My mother is a Florida resident (last two years living with a sister), bank accounts are in PA where she lived her entire life, but she died in Ohio visiting me. Florida small estates are under 6500 so we don't qualify. Maybe PA would like my codicil.

igloo572: The "litigation" is due to a poorly formed condicil (that I took out of a library book). I had the witnesses sign in the middle of the document instead of the end. Florida takes exception to that and may tose it out creating a hot mess. Costs prior to that were 3250 (lawyer and court costs). So the "litigation" would be alot more (5000 to 6000?). It was my Florida lawyer that quit that told me to get a "litigation" lawyer. The unclaimed funds would be in my mother's name: so her children (like me) can make a claim on it. The bills will be paid before any bequests. But I hope to pay all.

GardenArtist: There is a will. I plan to follow it. In the codicil, I am the named executor. My mother had good insurance, so there are no medical bills. I am hoping my sibilings will "kick in" equal shares to pay the bills, getting it back under unclaimed funds. If they don't I hope they will sign their unclaimed fund check over to those who did "kick in". If they don't, they don't. My mother's account is frozen so I cannot get access to it unless I sign up for probate and get an estate account. Probate will eat up the entire amount leaving some bills unpaid. It is my fault for creating an invalid codicil. I only wrote it because the executor named in the will said he would refused to do it. I just want this nightmare to be over.
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There are definitely some red flags here. Beyond the issues raised by Pam and Igloo, I would ask these questions as well:

1. Was there or was there not a Will or Trust? You mention it, but it doesn't seem as if your plan follows the terms of the will.

2. If not, and the siblings are "letting" you handle it, are you also the Personal Rep/Executrix? If so, you don't need an agreement to be signed by them acknowledging that you're handling SPECIFIC aspects. They should be spelled out in the Will, unless that's the document that isn't compliant with state law.

Please tell me it isn't some document downloaded from an online forum?

3. Wills if properly drafted require that your mother's funds MUST be used first to pay the bills of her last illness.

4. What was the document that wasn't in compliance with state law, and for what reason? This needs to be addressed now. It could affect everything you do.

5. ABSOLUTELY NO BEQUESTS should be paid until the issue of outstanding bills is resolved. If there are insufficient funds to make the bequests, that might be unfortunate but the expenses of last illness take priority.

6. I'm not clear on how there can be $8,000 in unclaimed funds that can't be used now to pay the $5k in bills, then make any bequests after other expenses (including probate and an attorney if necessary) are paid.

7. I don't know what the relationship (good or bad) is with your siblings, but waiting a few years to do something and then expecting they'll make you whole is NOT a sound proposal. Their positions can easily change by then and you're stuck having expended your own funds, which you shouldn't done in the first place.

7. It is not your responsibility to ensure that the siblings get "something" from your mother's estate unless there are funds after the bills are paid. I understand you're trying to be considerate of them, but if you are acting as Personal Representative pursuant to a Will, your responsibility is first to execute the terms of the Will, whether or not there are adequate funds for the sibs.

8. If some of the bills are from doctors, contact them and ask if they'll forgive the indebtedness. When I did that after my sister died, the doctors I contacted volunteered to just write off the bills.

9. See if you can make payment arrangements for the others, based on what your mother's funds are now.
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Pam, a ? for you.....did the small estate affadavit require a MERP release to accompany the affadavit? Done whether or not the deceasd was on Medicaid, but rather require it as a routine item for estate of deceased over 65.
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I would not personally ever pay debt owed by an estate. Not your debt.

But I'd like to dial your ? back...What made probate guy #1 "quit"? What would the "litigation" be about...no valid will? Heirs predeceasing? Poorly done codicil? To me that is central cause if it's a hot mess, it may change your plan.

My experience (3X executor) is most probate atty do NOT do litigation ever, & if upon reviewing documents find problems, they turn probate all over to one that does. Now dealing with claims against estate, testamentary trusts, settlement offers, even assets in more than 1state, etc. that's normal probate. But "litigation" is usually done by smaller subset of probate guys & cost skyrocket. An 8k estate maybe not worth dealing with. So what's out there that means "litigation"?

About "unclaimed funds", really research just how your state does this. You may need to establish lineal heirship as the $ will not be unclaimed in your name but in the deceasd name to get it. Think if whatever "litigation" is about, if they could themselves try to get the unclaimed as well. If at the end of all this, the maximum you could have in hand is 2k as there's no other assets of the estate, you may want to just do nothing as it not worth the time, effort or your making yourself liable for actions unless your bonded executor.

So what the " litigation" about?
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NO. You pay mom's bills with mom's money. NO bequests until after death. When she dies, Fill out and print a free Small Estate Affidavit Ohio form. We did this in NY. The form was filed at the county court house for a $1 filing fee. In a couple of weeks, we had the proper court papers to do an estate of less than $30K.
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