Imagine that you are made the executor of your mom’s will. You have several other siblings and the will gives all of you an equal share.
One of your brothers has borrowed a lot of money from your mother over the years and never paid any of it back. Although there is no documentation for any of these loans, you might be tempted to use your powers as the executor of your mother’s estate to collect the debt from these loans.
This is essentially the situation that a reader recently wrote into the Napa Valley Register to ask about in “Can mom make son pay debt?” There are several problems with what the executor wants to do.
The first is that loans to children are often more gifts than they are loans. The mother probably “loaned” the money to the sibling, knowing that it would never be paid back. That makes it a gift.
The second problem is since the loans are undocumented, there is no way to prove they happened short of a court battle over them.
The third problem is that even if these were considered loans and not gifts, they would likely be well outside the statute of limitations, unless they were made recently.
It can be tempting for executors to want to redress past wrongs. However, they should be careful before doing so.
Executors do not have unlimited powers and should consult with an estate attorney before doing anything that is outside the directions given by the probate court.
Reference: Napa Valley Register (Oct. 26, 2017) “Can mom make son pay debt?”