Choosing an executor or trustee is a critical aspect of every estate plan. Executors and trustees have broad authority and are charged with gathering the decedent’s assets, discharging debts and paying taxes due on the decedent’s estate. Because the executor and trustee have broad authority, and are tasked with a variety of responsibilities and obligations, naming an executor or trustee who can handle these issues is extremely important. Failure to properly address these issues can have a profound impact on an estate, as demonstrated by the case Specht and Hoffheimer, co-fiduciaries for the Estate of Escher v. U.S.
The facts of this case are surprisingly straightforward. Virginia Escher died in December 2008 at the age of 92, and the court’s opinion reports her estate was worth $12,506,462. Ms. Escher named her cousin as her Executrix, and the Executrix hired Ms. Escher’s attorney to represent the Executrix with regard to the Estate. It was later discovered that the attorney was battling brain cancer at the time.