June 17, 2014 § 7 Comments
In this district we have had a problem with fiduciaries having been appointed and never qualified by taking the oath and posting any required bond, and consequently not having Letters issued.
A fiduciary has no authority to act unless and until that person has qualified, which requires taking the oath, posting any required bond, and having Letters issued.
In one case in my court the person appointed used the order appointing him, without Letters of Administration ever having been issued, to sell a car, and he closed a couple of bank accounts. He sold the car and pocketed the money; who knows what he did with the funds. The lawyer who opened the estate spent a considerable sum out of his own pocket trying to recover the estate’s money. Not surprisingly, the perpetrator was judgment proof and can no longer be found on this planet.
In another case, a woman (not the mother) testified that she was guardian of the child, but when I ordered the insurance attorney to get the guardianship file, it showed that only an order appointing her had been entered, and she had never taken an oath or posted a required $10,000 bond. Incidentally, she testified that her lawyer had told her that the order was adequate, and she proceeded to use that apparent authority to negotiate a settlement of the child’s claim.
We came up with some language that we now require all attorneys to include in their orders opening estates, guardianships, and conservatorships. You may find this language useful in your own district, and even if you find it superfluous, you just might conclude that there’s no harm in including it.
Here it is:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that if the fiduciary has failed to qualify by posting the required bond, if any, taking the oath, and having appropriate Letters issued as required by this order and the laws of the State of Mississippi within thirty (30) days of entry of this order, then the Chancery Clerk is hereby ordered and directed to notify the court immediately of such failure, and the court shall enter an order dismissing this civil action without prejudice and without further notice to the fiduciary, or attorney of record for the fiduciary, or any other parties who have entered an appearance in this civil action.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED THAT THIS ORDER DOES NOT AUTHORIZE [Name] TO ACT AS THE FIDUCIARY FOR [Name of ward or decedent] UNLESS VALID LETTERS [Testamentary, or of Administration, or of Guardianship, or of Conservatorship] ARE ATTACHED HERETO.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that persons who use or accept this order without the attached Letters as court authority to act or conduct the affairs of the [ward or decedent] shall be subject to sanctions by this court.
June 30, 2010 § 2 Comments
[This outline is based on the 15th Chancery Court District Newsletter published by Chancellor Ed Patten]
Admission of will to probate:
- Original will must be presented and filed, if available.
- Petition must have copy of the will attached. Uniform Chancery Court Rule 6.15.
- Will must be proven by at least one subscribing witness, usually through affidavit attached to self-proving will, or by proof of will executed later. §91-7-7, MCA.
- Will may not be probated in common form if there is a previously-filed written objection to probate. §91-7-21, MCA.
Executor appointed and Letters Testamentary Granted:
- Court appoints executor named in the will, if appropriate.
- Executor must be over 18 years of age, of sound mind, and not a convict of felony.
- If no person qualifies or agrees to act as executor, court may appoint one. §§91-7-35 and 91-7-39.
Oath and Bond:
- At the time that Letters Testamentary are granted, executor must take and subscribe the oath set out in §91-7-41, MCA.
- At the time that the executor takes the oath, the executor must also post bond equal to the full value of the estate, unless bond is waived by the terms of the will. Even so, the court has authority to require a bond. §91-7-41, MCA.
Notice to Creditors:
Executor has the responsibility to give notice to creditors in the prescribed form and in the proper order set out in §91-7-145, MCA, as follows:
- Executor to make reasonable effort to identify creditors having a claim against the estate and to mail them actual notice of the 90-day time period in which to file a claim.
- Executor must file an affidavit of known creditors and attest to having served actual notice on them.
- Executor must publish notice in newspaper publsihed in the county informing creditors that they have 90 days in which to file a claim against the estate; publication to run 3 times, once per week for 3 consecutive weeks.
- Executor is required to file proof of newspaper publication in the court file.
- Publication may be waived by the court in very small estates having value not more than $500.
Inventory and Appraisal:
- If not specifically waived in the will, the executor is required to complete and file inventory and appraisal within 90 days from the grant of Letters Testamentary. §91-7-45, MCA.
- The court may require inventory and appraisal eben if waived in the will.
- Held as necessary to resolve interlocutory conflicts between the parties.
- Accountings are required annually and upon closing the estate.
- All parties may agree to waive final accounting, and by custom also annual accountings.
Petition to Close Estate and Discharge Executor:
- Final account must be filed with petition to close unless excused by the court.
- All parties in interest must be summoned to hearing on final account and petition to close. §91-7-295, MCA.
- Any party may enter an appearance by consent and waiver.
- If approved, the court enters its final judgment for final distribution of any property remaining in the executor’s care. §91-7-297, MCA.