Recently Attorney Mike Riddle sat down with Bruce Munsterman of the KHCB Network’s Vital Issues in a Christian Home for a conversation about preparing for the future and preserving finances and real estate investing. Below are a recording and overview of that conversation.
Question 1– Can there be more than one independent executor in a last will and testament? (In this case, the caller has 2 daughters and 1 son.)
Mike Riddle: This is a question that comes up quite a bit. Everybody wants to treat each child equally. The problem is that each one is different. There is something called sibling rivalry.
In firefighters, there is one person who wears the white hat that leads the crew. The rest of the firefighters wear a red hat and they do what the whitehat says.
The same is with the children. There needs to be 1 child who has the decision making power. If each child has equal decision-making power, a lot of time no decision will be made if not all agree.
Typically, we do it in order. 1st child, 2nd child, 3rd child, etc. They are all included, but one has the say so. And typically each child will have a spouse, so you really have quite a few people weighing in on the decision. One person is sufficient.
You should inform your children ahead of time on who has this decision making power. Sometimes there is a natural leader among the children, this makes it easier to decide. Sometimes it’s not that clear.
Sometimes it’s not possible to be a family member, sometimes it’s someone who is outside of the family.
It’s important to execute on what the person passing wanted, not what the executor thinks is right.
Question 2: Appointing an Executor. I have no one that seems to fit the bill. Can I contract an executor if there is no one in the family? Can your attorney who writes the will be the executor?
Mike Riddle: Yes, an attorney can be an executor but it’s done at their peril. It’s not wise to have the lawyer be the executor. Avoid this if possible. If there are no family members, then an attorney would make sense, but that is a rare case.
Compensation for the attorney is a reasonable compensation for the time served, normally off of an hourly basis. Sometimes it can be a fixed fee. Generally, it’s based on the amount of time that it takes and the responsibilities that they incur for taking care of the estate.
A family member is always better than a non-family member.
Question 3: Texas Caller- If I have a will, and need to make some modest changes, can the will be self revised, notarized and be legitimate?
Mike Riddle: This answer will change from state to state. Each state has its own laws. Generally, you would not want a person who is not experienced in writing wills, editing the wills because it’s not simple.
The best thing to do is to hire an attorney to help you write the will. It will cost you more if you modify the will incorrectly.
The will should also be reviewed every 3-5 years. There are three reasons for this.
1 There are changes in relationships
Most attorneys will do this free of charge.
Question 4: I would like to write a will, what is the cost and how difficult is it if I want to do it myself? Can I learn how to do this online? How much would an attorney cost me if I have to go through an attorney? What type of attorney would I need?
Mike Riddle: For 39 years that question has always been there. It’s a great question. It’s kind of like doing surgery on yourself. It’s easy to start, but once you cut yourself open, the pain is going to make you want to go to the doctor instead.
Experience from an Attorney is the greatest advantage. Again, will be more cost and damages done with an improper will. There can be incredible unintended consequences. Get an Attorney and have that peace of mind.
An attorney knows what questions ask, that most people won’t know what to ask. The cost of an attorney is relative to how big the estate is. The smaller the estate, the smaller the cost. The bigger the estate, the bigger the cost.
You would want to find an attorney that has experience doing estate administration and has experience doing wills.