– Hello and welcome to episode
15 of Estate Planning Weekly. Today I’m answering a common question that I receive regarding whether or not your personal representative
or successor trustee can just rob your estate blind
and do whatever they want. Clients are often
concerned with the powers that they’re granting to a third party. As always, I’m your host Don Rolfe. I’m the owner and founder
of Northwest Legal Planning and Estate Planning and Probate law firm located in West Linn, Oregon. Now to those personal representatives and successor trustees. Essentially the short
answer to the question as to whether or not they
could abscond with everything in your estate is yes they could. Most likely they’d be caught
and held accountable for it. It is a crime, it’s theft. They’re in a fiduciary position playing a role in making sure
that your creditors are paid and that your beneficiaries and heirs are receiving the assets
that you’ve directed. In reality, that just doesn’t happen. You know, you’re going to appoint someone to those positions who you know and trust and very likely they are
not going to be stealing anything from your estate. Furthermore when it comes
to probate in Oregon, depending upon if you have a
will or you don’t have a will and the powers that you’ve granted, there could be a requirement
for a bond to be posted by the personal representative. The court has oversight over
what gets paid out of accounts. They keep tabs to make sure that creditors are being properly paid and that beneficiaries are
receiving the inheritance that you’ve set out in your will. And on the trust side,
generally beneficiaries are pretty knowledgeable
about what’s going on. As soon as you are
gone, your beneficiaries will probably be receiving notices and be requesting copies
of the trust document so they can know what’s going on and be able to keep tabs on the trustee. If all else fails and there is a problem, your beneficiaries always have the option of filing something with the court to say something fishy is going on here, we need to take a look at this,
can we get this rectified? But in a vast majority of
cases, 99.99999% of cases, there’s not going to be any issues with a personal representative
or successor trustee overstepping their bounds. Now what are they allowed to do? Well in both, a successor
trustee and a personal representative, powers are
derived from two places. So the trust and the will you create will give specific delineated powers to those fiduciaries and
then also the state statutes for both probate and for
trusts will set forth powers that those people will
have in those roles. And generally what it is
that they’re going to do is gather up all of your
assets, your cash, your cars, your furniture, your
clothing, your real property, put those into either an
estate account with a probate or into an administration
account for your trusts, tally that all up, gather
up all of your bills, any final expenses, any credit card debt, anything that you have
that you have to payout any obligations and they’ll
payoff the creditors. And then what’s left,
they’ll look to the documents that you’ve created or if
you unfortunately pass away without having created an estate plan, they’ll look at the statutes to see the order of who is to get
assets from your estate. If you’ve spelled it out,
hopefully in a trust or a will, your personal representative
or successor trustee will look to those documents
to see who is to get what, whether or not Billy’s to get your Mustang and Sally’s to get the Corvette, whatever it happens to be and
make sure that those assets are paid out to those
beneficiaries or your heirs as you’ve set forth. So again the short answer is yes, yes there could possibly be some issues but in reality it just
doesn’t happen that often, especially if you’ve taken
the time to appoint people that you know and trust
to those positions. It’s something that
almost all of my clients have at least a little bit of struggle trying to find those people
but when you do find them and you get the right people appointed, it makes all the difference. If you have any questions
about estate planning, hopefully you’re not
in the group of people who don’t have any estate plan and are leaving it totally
to the statutes as to where your assets are going to
go, who gets paid first. Hopefully you do have an estate plan, if you don’t, feel free
to reach out to me. You can click on the link
below or go over to my website and schedule a free complimentary
30 minute consultation either by phone or in person. I would be happy to meet with you, answer any questions that you have. I appreciate you being here and watching. Thank you and I’ll talk to you soon.