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Can an executor change, alter, or in anyway ignore the directives or intent of a will?

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Lot249

Junior Member
New Jersey.
The will in question has very specific requests regarding funeral services, disposition of remains, disposition of assets, and who should or should not be included as a beneficiary of the estate. The will is expected to be contested on one or all of the aforementioned requests by one or both siblings.
What concerns me is the executor has maintained a relationship with the deceased's siblings and has granted some of their requests contrary to the deceased's wishes.

Are the deceased's directives to be executed to the letter or can an executor change, alter, or in any way ignore the directives or intent of a will?
Do the beneficiaries have any recourse if it is felt or determined the executor has not acted in good faith?

For the purpose of full disclosure, I have no vested issue in this matter. I only hope the last wishes of my friends (15 years) are respected and carried through as intended.
 
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Taxing Matters

Overtaxed Member
The answer to that depends on exactly what the will says, what the executor wants to do, what the beneficiaries think of it, and which state's law applies, none of which you have provided. Fill in some details and perhaps you'll get some useful replies.
 

Lot249

Junior Member
The state is New Jersey.

The will states very clearly who is to get what. It also states who is not to be included as a beneficiary. Short of posting the will itself, I'm not sure what other information I can provide to determine what latitude the executor has in the execution of the will.
 

Taxing Matters

Overtaxed Member
Is there something in particular the executor wishes to do? Does the will spell out at all what powers the executor has? Are you the executor? Or is this a hypothetical question?
 

Lot249

Junior Member
I'm not the executor and this is not a hypothetical question. The will reflects the wishes of a husband and wife who died within 5 months of each other. The siblings have been estranged for 20 years. When the husband passed, his wife did not notify them of his passing. As her husband was dying in the hospital, she told their friend her siblings were not permitted to visit. Unbeknownst to her, the friend contacted the siblings and accompanied them to the hospital.
The executor was their lawyer for many years but he relinquished the role after being continually harassed by the siblings. The responsibility of executorship was then passed to the aforementioned friend.
The concern is since this friend ignored her past request, will he continue to do so as the executor? Additionally, if and when the will is contested, will this person execute the will in the spirit in which it was written?
 

LdiJ

Senior Member
I'm not the executor and this is not a hypothetical question. The will reflects the wishes of a husband and wife who died within 5 months of each other. The siblings have been estranged for 20 years. When the husband passed, his wife did not notify them of his passing. As her husband was dying in the hospital, she told their friend her siblings were not permitted to visit. Unbeknownst to her, the friend contacted the siblings and accompanied them to the hospital.
The executor was their lawyer for many years but he relinquished the role after being continually harassed by the siblings. The responsibility of executorship was then passed to the aforementioned friend.
The concern is since this friend ignored her past request, will he continue to do so as the executor? Additionally, if and when the will is contested, will this person execute the will in the spirit in which it was written?
You are describing things in general terms, when we really need you to give one or two examples of specific things that the executor has done that seem to violate the will.
 

Lot249

Junior Member
The executor was requested there be no services upon her death. The siblings requested and were granted permission for a service.

The executor was directed to not notify her siblings of her demise. They were notified with two days of her death.

The executor was instructed to have the ashes of both deceased to be combined and placed in a specific location. The siblings requested the ashes be shared between the two. This request was also granted.

The executor/friend was instructed her siblings were not to be involved or informed as to the details of the will. Siblings were given answers to specific questions regarding the disposition of the major assets such as the house, investments, savings and checking accounts.
 

Taxing Matters

Overtaxed Member
First, the friend is not the executor of the will until appointed by the court. The friend was requested by the wife not to tell wife's siblings that her husband was dying. (Not sure why her siblings would be much interested in his passing.) The friend evidently did that anyway. While that did not honor the wife's request, there was nothing illegal about it and had nothing to do with the will.

Who told the executor there was to be no services? In any event, the executor cannot stop her siblings from having a memorial service. Whether the estate would have to pay for that, however, is another matter. Did the wife put in her will that the estate was not pay for any memorial service?

In at least most states the executor would have had the obligation to notify close relatives of her death. Wills once filed are public record and in any event state law generally require that a copy of the will be provided to close relatives anyway. So the executor may have had no choice there. Same thing with the estate assets. Executors generally have to provide periodic accounts of the estate, and the heirs & beneficiaries would typically be informed of that.

The job of the executor is gather up all the estate assets, pay the just debts of the deceased and the estate, including burial expenses, and to distribute the remaining assets of the estate as directed by the will. So far nothing you have stated indicates that the executor is not doing that job properly. The beneficiaries will want to keep watch on what she does and if she doesn't handle things correctly they can bring an action in court to address it.
 

Lot249

Junior Member
Thank you for your response. I was just informed of the siblings filing to contest their parent's will.
I'm not sure on what grounds, I'm fairly sure it will be based on suspected "undue influence" by some or all of the beneficiaries. I believe they will use the fact they are not included in the will as a sign of "unusual circumstances" surrounding the will's content.
The burden of proof is on the person who is contesting the will, but I'm not sure how someone can defend these types of allegations.
The deceased has been very vocal regarding her desire not to have her siblings benefit from her estate.
We all hope that her last wishes will be respected.

When the contested will is eventually evaluated, how much weight will the video recording made by the deceased (with only her lawyer present explaining her intentions), in determining the validity or merits of the contest?
Once again, thank you for your time and attention to my questions.
 

Taxing Matters

Overtaxed Member
Thank you for your response. I was just informed of the siblings filing to contest their parent's will.
I'm not sure on what grounds, I'm fairly sure it will be based on suspected "undue influence" by some or all of the beneficiaries. I believe they will use the fact they are not included in the will as a sign of "unusual circumstances" surrounding the will's content.
The burden of proof is on the person who is contesting the will, but I'm not sure how someone can defend these types of allegations.
The deceased has been very vocal regarding her desire not to have her siblings benefit from her estate.
We all hope that her last wishes will be respected.

When the contested will is eventually evaluated, how much weight will the video recording made by the deceased (with only her lawyer present explaining her intentions), in determining the validity or merits of the contest?
Once again, thank you for your time and attention to my questions.
Undue influence or incapacity to make a will are both pretty hard to prove. Especially here where there is a history of estrangement from her siblings they are going to have a hard time showing that she would have included them but for the undue influence of someone else. Undue influence cases are in my experience most successful when the will is suddenly changed not all that long before the decedent dies and the changes give a substantial gift to someone who just happened to swoop in and become a part of the decedent's life shortly before the will was changed.
 

Lot249

Junior Member
Sorry for the misunderstanding. The couple, whose will I'm addressing, were my close friends for the last 15 years. Their son and daughter are the siblings I'm referencing.
Thanks again for sharing your insights.
 

LdiJ

Senior Member
Sorry for the misunderstanding. The couple, whose will I'm addressing, were my close friends for the last 15 years. Their son and daughter are the siblings I'm referencing.
Thanks again for sharing your insights.
OK, that makes a HUGE difference in the scenario. Siblings was the totally wrong word to use. You should have said children or son and daughter rather than siblings. Siblings would indicate that they were the brother and sister of the deceased rather than the children of the deceased.
 

Shadowbunny

Queen of the Not-Rights
Good heavens, Lot249 -- you have managed to make this far more confusing than it ever needed to be.

Here's the bottom line: this is not your business, unless you are the beneficiary of the estate. If you ARE the beneficiary, then you'll need legal representation IF they contest the will. If you AREN'T the beneficiary, then you need to MYOB.
 

commentator

Senior Member
And lots of people, in my experience, mouthe off about how they're leaving this one and that one out of the will, and then, when it comes down to brass tacks, they end up not doing it at all, or not doing it in a correct legally binding manner. Because, face it, disinheriting your children, while it makes a big thing to talk about through the years while your children are not doing what you would've preferred them to, is, when you get around to it, is a VERY big step. You have to think about the next generations, how it will look in your ancestry stories, etc. These are your children who are your descendants, who will parent your grandchildren.

If these children are adults, they've been in these people's lives for more than fifteen or twenty years, and there are strong ties. Even though there were things about not seeing them after many years, and ordering that no one tell them they were in poor shape. I know how these bitter feelings are, havng been confronted by a list of people that someone "did not want to come to her funeral!" But kinship, especially parent and child, are as I said, very strong ties. Stronger than your friendship, which, from your post, began after they were no longer seeing their children. Don't assume that you need to step in and take over the grievances of this family, just because they were your friends for a while in their lives. Let the heirs, and the law, work it out without your assistance. This person who is the executor doesn't need your interpretation of "the spirit" of the will. If you are anywhere in this as an inheritor instead of the children, get an attorney.
 
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