Thursday, April 24, 2014

Executors and Their Troubles

Oleg Cassini

Oleg Cassini's executor suspended. The designer died in 2006, leaving most of his estate to his wife. One of Cassini's daughters from his previous marriage to movie star Gene Tierney successfully contested the will.

Thereafter Cassini's widow seems to have lost interest in settling the estate. A Manhattan probate judge has suspended her as executor, pending a decision as to whether she should be replaced.

Fireman's executor overwhelmed. Nearly three years after a volunteer fireman in New Jersey died, "none of the beneficiaries have received their disbursements from his estate. The lack of action — and alleged dearth of communication with the executor — prompted borough officials to file a lawsuit compelling executor John Benensky of Madison to fulfill his fiduciary duty and give a formal accounting of the estate."

The estate includes a business and is valued at over $1 million. Agreeing to serve, says the overwhelmed executor, was "a spur of the moment” decision. He had no idea the job would be so complicated.

Replaced executor fights for the job. A few months before she died, an elderly widow executed a codicil to her 2010 will. Her amendment made no changes to the disposition of her $22 million estate; the codicil merely replaced the lawyer she had named as her executor with three new co-executors.

After the widow's death the lawyer fought to regain his appointment as executor (and as successor trustee of the widow's living trust). Failing in probate court, he appealed. Now the appeals court has rebuffed him:

A person who was named as an executor in a will cannot contest a codicil by which the testator named someone else to that position.
Estate settlement is a task that sometimes involves big money and often stirs strong emotions. Maybe naming a dull, disinterested bank as executor isn't such a bad idea.

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