My aunt died. She left no will. My siblings and I are the heirs, but live out of state. Her state (Alabama) requires the administrator to be a state resident. We are not sure who should be in charge of the estate. Is the attorney we are using the best option. We are leaning towards this, but he is saying we should use a family friend who lives in that state. We just want someone with expertise in estate matters so to us an attorney makes sense. Any reason why he wouldn't want this designation?
Estate Planning Attorney
I cannot address the issue of whether Alabama law requires that an Administrator of an intestate estate be a resident of Alabama (Georgia does not have any similar requirement, and I am not Alabama-licensed). However, I can address the issue of why an attorney might not want to serve as the Administrator - conflict of interest problems come up, and ethical requirements can exist. In Georgia, for example, an attorney is not allowed to suggest that he be appointed as an administrator of an estate - the request must come from the party who is seeking to have the estate administered. In addition, an attorney's role as attorney and the attorney's role as Administrator of an estate are different, and can have a lot of conflicts. It may not be possible for all of such possible conflicts to be adequately waived by the heirs to the estate. If you don't want to use the family friend because you want someone with more experience in estate administration, you might be able to find a CPA or a corporate fiduciary (bank trust department, for example) who is willing and able to serve.
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Divorce / Separation Lawyer
I agree with counsel. There may be potential conflict of interest issues and there are other neutral 3rd parties who are just as qualified to assist you with estate management. Good luck.
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I agree with both answers. I am licensed in CT (not Alabama) but the conflict of interest is the most compelling reason for your attorney not to serve as administrator. In CT, the court often appoints another lawyer to serve (one who does not represent the estate) when there are no family members available or willing to serve.
Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Estate Planning Attorney
If the estate is large enough, I would suggest using a trust company, also known generically as a corporate fiduciary. They are in the business of handling these type matters so you can be confident that they will do a good job for you and keeps your hassle to an absolute minimum. Money that is often well spent.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney
Ms. DiSalvo has given you an excellent, detailed answer. In addition, I agree with Ms. Olszewski that there should be a court procedure for appointing a lawyer (another lawyer who is not representing you in the estate) to be administrator, when no family members are present or willing to serve.
This answer is general in nature and does not create an attorney-client relationship. My practice is in Metro Atlanta, Georgia.