What does it mean to be the executor of a NY estate? Estate of Irwin Jacobs

When asked should I act as executor of a NY estate any Queens estate lawyer with enough experience will tell you to be careful what you ask for.  An executor of a NY estate is the individual written into the will as the fiduciary by the Queens estate lawyer drafting the will.  Aside from the possibility of collecting a statutory commission of approximately 4% of the net assets of the entire NY estate and exerting some control over the estate, why would I want to be the executor?  Well chances are you might not want to be an executor of a NY estate.  

Once a decedent passes your Queens estate lawyer will file the necessary paperwork to admit the NY will to probate before the executor’s appointment can become official with the issuance of Letters Testamentary by the NY Surrogate’s Court.   Prior to the issuance of letters by the court, any NY estate lawyer can tell you that  the executor of the NY estate has no power to dispose of any property within the NY estate absent the issuance of preliminary letters with the exception of the payment of funeral expenses which the NY estate law permits ahead of probate.  

Upon your appointment as executor with the help of their NY estate lawyer it then becomes the executor’s obligation to collect all the assets of the NY estate and to pay all of its debts in a timely manner including but not limited to estate taxes, property taxes, credit cards debts and the like.  In fact if there are valid debts within the NY estate which are not paid or properly discharged the executor may become personally liable for said liabilities themselves.  As such with the help of their Queens estate lawyer the fiduciary is obligated to locate and take possession of NY estate assets to satisfy the debts of the estate and then make distribution to the beneficiaries in accordance with the NY estate law.  

Additionally, once appointed an executor’s role within the NY estate law is not to lose or otherwise waste the assets within the NY estate but to marshal, collect and distribute them. Pursuant to SCPA 711 of the NY estate law an executor agrees that he or she will not waste the assets of the NY estate or make investments unauthorized by law or otherwise improvidently manage or injure the assets of same.  However should the executor’s misconduct of his or her obligations through either dishonesty, improvidence (mismanagement), drunkenness, or lack of understanding he or she will be deemed unfit to remain executor and shall be removed.  

While it might seem enticing and straightforward at first glance, acting as the executor of a NY estate could easily make for some restless nights if the NY estate is insolvent, its debts outweigh the estate’s assets, or if some other catastrophe should arise.  When this occurs the courts will demand the executor to judicially settle their account upon all parties involved in addition to the court.  Should the executor of the NY estate fail to timely file their account with the court their letters testamentary (executorship) may be suspended, revoked, or in extreme cases where large sums of NY estate moneys have disappeared from the NY estate a bench warrant may be issued for the executor’s arrest.  

As a Queens estate lawyer with two decades of experience probating Queens estates, I can say more often than not NY estates proceed smoothly and quickly through the Courts. But on occasion we have seen executors abscond with assets of a NY estate requiring lengthy NY estate litigation to get them back.  And honestly sometimes being the executor of a NY estate is just not worth the trouble.

Estate of Irwin Jacobs

On April 10, 2019, the bodies of businessman Irwin Jacobs and his wife of 47 years Alexandra Jacobs were found in the bedroom of their house which rests on a sprawling 25 acre estate.  The causes of death were equally as disturbing as the troubling murder suicide splayed out in the bedroom.  The only clue as to what could make a seemingly successful entrepreneur snap taking the life of his wife and turning the gun on himself was contained in the handwritten note from the 77 year old Irwin to his housekeeper which read, “I’m truly failing health wise both physically and mentally.”    

In his prime Irwin Jacobs was a formidable businessman, one of the creators of cable shopping, founding the Cable Value Network also known as CVN.   Irwin Jacobs would later sell his creation to QVC in 1989 for $400 million dollars. Irwin would later acquire several other private companies and was at one point estimated to have a net worth of more than $1 billion dollars.  However Irwin Jacobs was not perfect and lost a lot of his net worth in 2008 when one of his biggest acquisition Genmar Holdings, the second largest manufacturer of recreational watercraft at the time went bankrupt.  

So what could make this successful entrepreneur shoot his 77 year old wife several time and turn the gun on himself?  Many details surrounding the weeks leading up to the tragedy indicate that Irwin’s health was failing and that he was exhibiting signs of dementia.  Tin his mind it was allegedly making it unbearably difficult for Irwin to care for his 77 year old, wheel chair bound wife Alexandra who was also suffering from dementia.  

Now daughter Randi Jacobs is attempting to pick up the pieces of this tragedy by administering her parents estate.  However the probate of her parents’ estates is becoming almost as tragic as the underlying murder suicide.  First, father Irwin’s will leaves Randi’s brother Mark, who she does not trust as the executor of the estate.   In fact Mark Jacobs is telling Randi Jacobs that not only did their parents have no money in their estates at the time of their deaths but their father Irwin Jacobs was actually $110 million dollars in debt.  According to Mark Jacobs their father Irwin even owed the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas $960,000.00 in gambling debts at the time of his death.  While Randi Jacobs is the nominated  executor within her mother Alexandra’s will, since Alexandra, was the first to die during the tragic circumstances of the murder suicide estate lawyers for Mark Jacobs argue that their father’s will should prevail as he survived his wife, and Mark should be appointed executor.  

Nevertheless, estate lawyers for Randi Jacobs are arguing that due to the slayer statute which reads if any person shall directly or indirectly cause the death of another, they should be determined to have predeceased the decedent as not to benefit from their wrong doing.  Therefore, pursuant to the slayer statute, the court can determine that Irwin Jacob’s act of murder triggered the slayer statute and that the court will determine that wife Alexandra shall have survived Irwin Jacobs by operation of law making Randi Jacobs the executor of her mother’s estate.  

Ultimately it appears that if Randi Jacobs wants to be the executor of her mother’s estate she is well within her rights to do.  Otherwise Randi Jacobs can leave the headache of cleaning up her parents affairs to her brother Mark while collecting any share of the residuary estate remaining she is entitled to inherit.  If at the end of the proceedings Randi is unhappy with her brother Mark’s administering of their parents’ estates, she can always elect to have her estate lawyers compel Mark to file a judicial accounting with the court.  If Mark fails to comply with said request for a compulsory accounting in a timely manner, estate lawyers for Randi Jacobs can then hold Mark Jacobs in contempt, having his letters testamentary either suspended or revoked.  

If you are the nominated executor of a NY estate it never hurts to ask the opinion of an experienced Queens estate lawyer to see what NY inheritance rights and obligations you may have under the NY will.  Feel free to call the NY probate lawyers at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates for a free consultation at (718) 261-2444.  Our NY probate lawyers have more than 60 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.

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