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Dispute over B.B. King’s Estate: Executors and their Role

According to NBC, blues legend B.B. King’s will is being contested by family members. Specifically, King’s heirs are challenging the will’s named executor, LaVerne Toney. Toney was King’s longtime business manager, as well as King’s power-of-attorney.

King’s family – a representative board of five of King’s 11 surviving children – claims that Toney isolated and stole from King, and poisoned him before his death last month. Toney’s attorney has asserted that King was responsible for keeping his family away and out of his business affairs. His estate is estimated to be worth between $5 and $10 million.

Executor’s Role

King’s family isn’t currently challenging any bequests in the will – they’re not saying that any particular property or funds should not go to the designated beneficiary – but they are challenging the designated executor. But why? How much power does an executor have? What is their role?

An executor is someone, either designated by estate planning documents or appointed by a court, who is responsible for settling the estate by the terms of the will, if one exists, or by the state’s intestacy laws, which are laws that govern when someone dies without a will. Executors are responsible for taking control of the estate’s assets. This may include having to file a claim to access assets such as insurance, appraising tangible property and real estate, and valuing financial assets such as bank accounts. The executor is also responsible for identifying debts owed at death, providing written notice of death to creditors, and determining when debts should be paid.

Florida and the Personal Representative

In Florida, the executor is commonly referred to as the “personal representative.” According to the Florida Bar, Florida law requires personal representatives to administer the probate estate in certain ways. Specifically, a personal representative is required to:

  • Identify, value, and safeguard assets;
  • Publish a notice for creditors in a local newspaper;
  • Serve a notice of administration with information about the probate estate administration;
  • Locate known or reasonably ascertainable creditors, and notify those creditors of their right to file claims;
  • Object to improper claims and defend suits against the estate;
  • Pay valid claims;
  • File tax returns and pay taxes due;
  • Hire professionals to assist in the administration of the estate;
  • Pay expenses of administering the probate estate; and
  • Disburse bequests to the decedent’s beneficiaries or, for assets distributed through intestacy, to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family.

Personal representatives are required to be over the age of 18, mentally and physically able to perform the required duties, and must not have been convicted of a felony. They must be either a Florida resident or a close relative of the decedent, such as a spouse, child, sibling, or parent. Close relatives of a decedent are not required to be Florida residents in order to serve as personal representatives. The Florida Bar recommends that a personal representative hire an attorney to assist in the administration of the estate and to ensure that all required duties are met.

It’s critical, when planning for the future, to be clear and adhere to legalities in order to ensure that your final wishes are carried out. Deciding who will serve as the personal representative of your estate can be challenging, particularly if you are unsure of what their responsibilities will be and who is in the best position to administer your estate. If you have questions about what plans are right for you or your family, and how you should enact those plans, contact the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group for a free consultation today.

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