50 THE QUEENS COURIER • HEALTH • JULY 5, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
The Elder Law Minute TM
Estate Fiduciary: To Be or Not To Be?
BY RONALD A. FATOULLAH, ESQ.
AND DEBBY ROSENFELD, ESQ.
PERSONALITY AND AGING
Th e old person is largely responsible
for his own place in society. What is
experienced as rejection or exclusion by
one person may be a welcome opportunity
to shed responsibility by another.
One individual’s lifestyle may keep him
closely linked with society, while that of
another individual may encourage an
Th e reality of individual diff erences is
well illustrated in several studies in the
fi eld of aging. As an example, researchers
in their studies among men, have
identifi ed fi ve types of personality.
In general, three types of men adjusted
well to their place in society as they
aged, while the other two types did not.
Th e “rocking chair” men were of a passive
disposition. Growing old gave them
permission to withdraw from activities
and responsibilities that they had cared
for in the fi rst place. What they gained
in peace and quiet seemed to more than
make up for what they lost by moving
out of the mainstream of life.
Quite diff erent were the “armored”
men. Th ese individuals dreaded the
project of becoming passive, dependent
or helpless. Th ey tend to organize themselves
to resist all forces, both biological
and sociological that might place them
in a dependent position. Th ey maintained
a physically and socially active
lifestyle, hardly relinquishing their
place in society at all.
Th e kind of personality most oft en
seen among the well-adjusted elderly
men was the one that researcher s
described as themselves and in their
relationship with society.
As people who had been living fully
for many years, they had the confi dence
to continue to function well, enjoying
personal relationships and their favorite
Th e “angry” men showed the most
common type of maladaptive pattern to
aging. Th ese were people who felt they
had not been treated well by life.
Given a reasonable opportunity, people
will fi nd or create their own place
in society as they grow old. Th e variety
and depth of individual experiences
that men and women alike bring into
old age is a rich resource that society
ignores, only to its own disadvantage.
Th e elderly person has helped to make
society what it is and need not hesitate
to make his or her claim to a meaningful
place in it.
I am reminded of a convention I
attended for Nursing directors where
the keynote speaker’s topic was entitled,
“Passion: love who you are, love
what you do.” His suggestion for living
with passion was the following: “…
we live in a world of uncertainty. Most
of us might call this uncertainty, stress.
People with positive energy, however,
call it excitement. Th e reality stays
Dr. Sheldon Ornstein is a
registered professional nurse
with a doctoral degree in
nursing organization. He
has specialized in the care
of older adults and has
published many articles on
the subject. He has done
post-graduate work in gerontology
and has taught
at several universities. In
2013, he was inducted into
the Nursing Hall of Fame at
Teachers College, Columbia
When a loved one passes away, the surviving
family members are left with innumerable
issues to address. Aside from
handling the normal process of grief and
mourning, there are also fi nancial and
legal matters to grapple with. Knowing the
necessary steps to be taken and having the
proper guidance can certainly help alleviate
this painful process.
Th e death of any individual who owned
assets creates an estate that must be administered
in a timely fashion. How the estate
is administered depends on how the assets
were held during the person’s lifetime.
Assets held by the decedent in his/her name
alone can only be distributed with the help
and oversight of Surrogate’s Court. If the
decedent had a will, then the will must be
probated, and the person who oversees this
process is the “Executor” appointed in the
will. If there was no will, then the estate
assets are distributed according to state
law, and the person who oversees this process
is the “Administrator” of the estate.
Both an Executor and Administrator must
go through Surrogate’s Court in order
to allow for the distribution of the decedent’s
assets. In certain instances, when an
individual’s assets are held by a trust, the
Trustee named in the trust document is
responsible for distributing the assets aft er
the death of the creator of the trust, and
there is no need to go through Surrogate’s
Executors (appointed in the will),
Administrators (appointed by the court)
and Trustees all serve in a fi duciary capacity
and have a number of responsibilities.
Th ey can also be held liable if something
goes wrong. Most oft en, these positions
are fi lled by close family members.
A child, sibling, niece or nephew will
typically be appointed to fi ll these roles
because they are trustworthy and responsible.
While it may be the highest compliment
to be appointed, it is oft en a burden.
Th e Executor/Administrator/Trustee
is charged with paying fi nal debts and
expenses, fi ling fi nal tax returns, properly
distributing any assets according to
law, and fi ling inventories and accountings
with Surrogate’s Court.
Trustees are fi duciaries and held to that
standard of law, it is of the utmost importance
that, if one is serving in such a capacity,
one should seek the advice and guidance
of legal counsel. Th e best course of
action for a great majority of issues can
be easily explained by a trusts and estates
attorney. And where the law is unclear,
the attorney can assist the Executor/
Administrator/Trustee in seeking guidance
from the court concerning the best
course of action. Ultimately, as a loyal and
responsible family member, fi lling the role
of fi duciary for the decedent’s estate is a
way of satisfying the decedent’s true wishes,
but it should be done with caution and
Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. is the principal
of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law
fi rm that concentrates in elder law, estate
planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships,
estate administration, trusts, wills,
and real estate. Debby Rosenfeld, Esq. is
a senior staff attorney at the fi rm. Th e law
fi rm can be reached at 7 18-261-1700, 516-
466-4422, or toll free at 1-877-ELDERLAW
or 1-877-ESTATES. Mr. Fatoullah
is also a partner with Advice Period, a
wealth management fi rm, and he can be
reached at 424-256-7273.
“A man’s stage in life
is only limited by his