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Suit contests change of executors in actress' estate plan

Deciding who will be named executor of an estate can be a tricky process. Some people know very quickly who would be willing to carry out the terms of a will. At the same time, others might take more time to identify the right executor.

On a very basic level, an executor should be a trustworthy individual who understands how important it is to carry out a person's final wishes. Additionally, the intended executor should be ready to fulfill the duties associated with being an executor. Like any other aspect of a will, a person should be of sound mind when creating or changing terms.

Critically-acclaimed stage actress Julie Harris switched legal representation in 2009. This also impacted her estate plan, because her attorney was the executor of her estate. Eventually, the actress modified her will and named new executors, which were her new attorney and Francesca Rubino, a fellow actress.

After the actress passed away in 2013, however, her former attorney filed a claim to contest the validity of her revised will. The man believed that Harris did not meet the competence requirement at the time she changed her executor. In addition, she made additions to her will, including a $500,000 inheritance for Rubino.

The man contesting the validity of the revised will says he is doing it because he represented Harris for so many years and feels compelled to defend her best interests. At the same time, the executors named in the contested will are moving to dismiss the lawsuit.

As this case shows, it's important to cover all bases during estate planning. Questions about competency can prove to be stressful and costly. In order to mitigate the challenges included in cases like this, a person may consider having their mental condition assessed at the time they create a will, which can help ease lingering concerns.

Source: ABA Journal, "Former lawyer for deceased stage actress Julie Harris sues to invalidate her will," Martha Neil, Jan. 14, 2014

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