I have been named as a benefactor in my grandmothers will. She died today.
My question is, does the executor have any responsibility to withhold my information except as needed to perform the functions of the will? If it is an attorney, can I expect discretion and MY desires to be left relatively anonymous to the rest of the beneficiaries?
If I give my husband complete power of attorney can he deal with them? Should I hire an attorney to act as an intermediary for me? How can I protect my information from the family? Can someone act in my stead?
It is vitally important to me that no one in that family know how to contact me and if is necessary for ONE of them to know, I want to know that my information would be protected from the rest of them.
This may seem odd, but my father was a child molester and his family actively allowed him to continue and hindered any attempts to stop him. I don’t have a problem taking their money, trust me, at best, it is a drop in the bucket, but I never allowed them to buy me when they were alive, and I’ll be damned if I let them buy their way into my life now.
Do you know who the executor is? Do you know for certain that it is an attorney?
I am not an attorney, but you might consider having a friend of representative contact the executor to find out how much information has to be revealed and to explain that you have a concern for total privacy. Maybe you can get some reassurances that way.
But it wouldn’t hurt to hire an attorney if you are uncertain.
How do you know you were in your grandmother’s will? How long has it been since you’ve seen her?
Auntbeast, I’m sorry for your loss, and I echo what’s been said. Without really knowing the jurisdiction at issue, and what type of property you’ve been left, we can’t really tell you what information would need to be made public by the executor. But a lawyer definitely could run interference for you, up to and including keeping your location, etc., confidential to the extent possible, and requiring all communication to funnel through the lawyer. Good luck.
On top or that, you may even want to pick up a prepaid phone and get a PO Box and use that as your contact info for the lawyer and anyone else who needs it during this ordeal. When all is said and done, you can cancel the PO Box and get rid of the phone.
I hope some of the Lawdopers will correct me if I’m wrong. In lieu of hiring a lawyer to represent her, would it be possible or prudent for the OP to draw up a Limited Power of Attorney and entrust the duties of dealing with the family and the will to her husband or other trusted friend? Wouldn’t this instrument have the effect of shielding her location while retaining her rights as a beneficiary?
Like it or not any such distribution is going to come in the form of a check, making it traceable in some way. Having your attorney handle it can allow him to accept the check and cut you a new one (- his fee im sure ) making it untraceable to you without disclosure by the attorney.
Oh, I don’t know, being able to sashay into the lawyer’s office, nose in the air, ignoring everyone except for the lawyer, giving him a dazzling smile as he hands you the check, then sauntering out of there may be a bit empowering.
On the other hand, if they still believe you made it all up and want to be able to corner you and ask you how you could think such a thing, I can see why you don’t want to subject yourself to that.
What sort of privilege would exist between you and the attorney handling the estate? Would you be considered his “client” and can you ask him to keep your current contact information from the rest of the family?
It would depend on the law of the jurisdiction where she resides, how well drawn up the Power of Attorney is, and so on. But that raises the question - who is going to draw up the Power of Attorney, to make it water-tight? Sounds like a job for a lawyer…
The reason for retaining a lawyer to handle dealings with the executor is that lawyers have a duty of confidentiality to their client, coupled with lawyer-client privilege. Both that duty and that privilege are legally recognizable and enforceable. Lawyers are used to dealing with confidentiality issues. Since this particular matter is both a legal issue and has a confidentiality issue, it makes sense to go to a lawyer for assistance.
As always, this is not intended as legal advice. I don’t know what jurisdiction the OP lives in, nor the precise details of lawyer-client confidentiality rules in her jurisidiction. All I can say is that in general, going to a lawyer in this type of situation is a good option. If the OP doesn’t know any lawyers, she can call the local bar association to see if they have a referral service, to refer her to a lawyer who practises in the particular area of estate work.
Again, it will depend on the law of the jurisdiction in which that lawyer is practising. To get a proper answer to that question as it applies in her particular case, the OP should ask a lawyer who practises in that jurisdiction, and who has some background in estate matters.
However, speaking generally, the lawyer owes the duties of confidentiality and lawyer-client privilege to the person who hired him/her. In the hypothetical given by ivylass, the lawyer handling the estate work would likely have been hired by the executor of the estate, not by the individual beneficiaries. Lawyers generally try to avoid having more than one client on a particular file - that way lies conflict of interest, madness (particularly in estate matters!), and discipline proceedings…
Again, not legal advice, just a comment on a matter of public interest.
As usual, this depends in large measure on the local law in the jurisdiction in which the will is probated.
In New York, for instance, the petition for probate is required to list: “So far as they can be ascertained with due diligence, the names and addresses of all the persons interested.” (Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act sec. 304). I do not know the extent to which in New York (or your grandmother’s jurisdiction if there is a similar provison) there may be exceptions permitted, or whether your address could be listed care of a lawyer or other representative.
I would recommend that you contact a lawyer in the county where your grandmother lived who will better know local procedure and whether your location may remain undisclosed in the probate proceedings. This should not be the lawyer handling the probate for the executor, but your own lawyer.
To state the obvious, I am not your lawyer and this is just a general discussion of the law, not legal advice. For specific information about your particular situation, you must retain your own lawyer.
Thank you all for responding. It turns out the first phone call was to find out what my name is for a listing in the obituary. I found it online today and it listed me as my maiden name. YEEHAW! I’m not sure when the reading of the will is going to occur, at this time, I have my husband running point for me.
I’m definitely contact an attorney at the appropriate time. The family has been crawling over their live bodies for as long as I can remember. I don’t really see much changing now.
Out of sheer curiosity, I did look up on the county property appraisers office to see what showed up in her name. She’s got about 5 parcels of property. I’ll be curious to find out how many loans the buzzards have taken out on the parcels I know she’s owned for at least 20 years.
In other news, I’m moving a bit past the anger and well, insanity of dealing with the freaks and trying to remember her as best I can. Great cook, funny woman. (I heard she tried to show my sister in law her mastectomy scar last week)
There is no such thing as a “reading of the will.” It’s just a plot device used in bad dramas. Usually whoever has been named executor will have a lawyer petition for probate, and provide notices to the beneficiaries at the appropriate time in the proceedings. The executor’s lawyer will likely have to obtain your address so you can be served with the proper notice.
I would recommend that you contact an attorney in your grandmother’s county as soon as possible. I would also recommend hiring someone who specializes in trusts and estates law, rather than a generalist (unless it is a very small county with few lawyers, in which a local lawyer may be your best bet). It is better to have a someone representing you as early in the process as possible. In addition, if you have a lawyer, the executor’s lawyer may be able to serve the notice through your lawyer, rather than having to send it to you at your address.
I was the executor for both of my parents estates. I had contact with the devisees twice, once to inform them and to deliver a copy of the will, and once to sign paperwork for them to take their share.
There was no “reading of the will,” and I didn’t have any ongoing contact with the other devisees. And I needed no information from them, although Probate did want to supply their addresses for Probate.