My recently deceased ex-husband named our daughters as executor and alternate executor in his will. He also left them his estate, but there's nothing for them to inherit and no money to probate the will. His debts far exceed the value of his only asset — a heavily mortgaged condo, about to be foreclosed on. His creditors include Medicaid, which paid for the nursing home where he died.
There were long-standing bad feelings between the girls and their father, but they did the right thing for him. They paid his bills with his money for him, and they paid a lawyer out of their own funds to get him medical care and Medicaid benefits. They don't want to probate the will. They want to walk away from it. They're very angry over how he threw his money around to everyone but them and got himself deep in debt despite their efforts to help him. If they decline to be executors, what happens?
They can walk away without further responsibility, secure in the knowledge that they've fulfilled their moral obligations.
When no one is willing to be executor, the court assigns the job to a public administrator, says Eric Kramer, a Uniondale estate lawyer. Your daughters should file their father's will and death certificate in Surrogate's Court in the county where he lived. They can then refer all creditors' inquiries and foreclosure notices to the court.
When they file the will, they may be asked to sign a document renouncing their executor appointments, says Sharon Kovacs Gruer, a Great Neck estate lawyer. "If they're later served with a notice to appear in court, they can simply fail to show up," she adds. "There's no penalty."
THE BOTTOM LINE Nobody is required to accept the job of being an executor.
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