One of the most important duties of an executor serving under a decedent’s Last Will and Testament is to locate the beneficiaries named in the Will. The Executor must locate the beneficiaries, notify them of their beneficiary status under the Will, and ultimately, ensure that the correct assets have been distributed to the named beneficiaries. While straightforward, this duty becomes difficult if the Executor is not familiar with the beneficiaries, the beneficiaries live remotely from the decedent or Executor and/or the decedent and beneficiaries have not remained in recent contact. We recommend that clients retain a Personal Records Form along with their estate planning documents so that the Executor can readily locate these beneficiaries.
What if the decedent died without a Will? In that case, the beneficiaries are the legal heirs according to the relevant State’s intestacy laws. For a decedent dying in Texas, Texas has set forth specific rules for who should inherit. In the event of an intestate decedent, the person or persons attempting to settle the estate of the decedent becomes much more complicated. In addition to locating the potential heirs, at a minimum, sworn affidavits or waivers may be required from each one prior to the Court approving that the estate be settled.
Some clients are under the impression that if they are unmarried and/or have no children, there is no reason to create a Will. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the truth. Not only do his or her heirs have quite a bit of work to do, but a Court may likely be required to assist in locating the assets and determining amounts assets in accounts as well as debts. Without a named executor or personal representative, financial institutions require Court subpoena in order to release financial information. Sometimes this very information is needed in order to determine which probate process is even available to settle the estate. The time to plan is now, and at a minimum, every person should have a Will and list of instructions or Personal Records Form to ensure that the settling of their estate does not become an unreasonable burden to their loved ones.