How Much Personal Information Should I Give Out When Being Designated An Heir?
April 21, 2011 11:43 AM   Subscribe

How Much Personal Information Should I Give Out When Being Designated An Heir?

One of my cousins is making her will and has asked my siblings and I to be her heirs. She only has one immediate family member, a sister who's not mentally stable and embezzled/stolen money from various family members. They're estranged and she wants to designate me and my siblings as her heirs and also make sure that if she dies before her sister, the sister doesn't get her hands on the estate.

I'm more than happy to be her heir, but am wondering how much information we should give out to her. To make it a little complicated, her estranged sister has the exact same name as one of my sisters. She wanted to see about getting our middle names and address/phone number. That should be enough, right? I don't think she'd done anything illegal with our personal information, but I'm pretty reluctant to hand over my DOB or SS# to her. Thoughts? How much legal information would her executor need in order to track down and verify me & my siblings?
posted by gov_moonbeam to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your DOB isn't exactly top secret information. Presumably most of your family knows it or can find out easily enough.

Also, if you cousin wants to make sure this is done right, see needs to consult an attorney. That attorney can advise her how to make it clear that she means your sister, not her estranged sister.
posted by indyz at 11:55 AM on April 21, 2011

Definitely need to consult an attorney here. Your cousin is trying to effectively disinherit someone. The number of ways this can go badly is beyond count.
posted by valkyryn at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I don't know where you are located, but I don't see any reason to hand out that information if you cannot be confused with someone else. Any will I have drafted does not include that information. As for the shared name issue, your cousin can likely specify in her will that she is specifically disinheriting her sister and to name your sister with more identifying information (like a birthdate). The lawyer will be able to easily handle this.

Do you know the executor? Perhaps giving your contact info like a phone number to that person would be helpful.I would never give my SSN out though.

IAAL but not yours.
posted by murrey at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2011

Not much other than your name - she really should be talking to her lawyer about this and they will make sure you and any other heirs are identified appropriately. If there is potential to confuse you with other people in her family the lawyer should be told and will be able to make sure this potential pitfall is avoided.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:26 PM on April 21, 2011

Information, not advice: My most common approach is to identify the desired person as "my cousin, Jane Doe, currently a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas". That is usually enough to make it clear who is intended.

Nthing the need to consult a lawyer. This is not the time for cheap shortcuts.
posted by megatherium at 12:36 PM on April 21, 2011

A year or so back, NPR ran a series (I want to say it was on Marketplace?) about the probate process and setting up a will. One of their themes was that many people who avoid consulting a probate lawyer to save money don't actually know how much it costs, and they said that drafting a will is pretty inexpensive (compared to legal services in general). Depending on how important it is to you that this not go poorly if/when you survive your cousin, you may wish to contact a probate lawyer on your own. Again, the only person who can authoritatively answer your question is a lawyer.
posted by mindsound at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2011

A lot of assets will pass outside probate. Things like retirement accounts and insurance policies allow you to designate beneficiaries and they pretty much universally require DOB and SSN. None of that stuff is actually required for a will. I've got the DOB and SSNs for my siblings and nieces/nephews and never really considered that they might be reluctant to provide it.
posted by Lame_username at 1:15 PM on April 21, 2011

A few comments:

Whenever making a will, a lawyer should be consulted. To fail to do so all too often leads to a "penny wise, pound foolish" outcome -- and often a lot of aggravation for others.

Your cousin shouldn't need anything more from you as designated heirs than your names and possibly, for clarity, your relationships to her (e.g., this would clarify the duplicate name concern).

Unless your cousin's problem sister is her legal dependent, she (in most places anyway) has no claim on your cousin's assets. Now, this little detail won't prevent her from suing, if she is so inclined, and creating problems, but that's another issue technically.

(IANAL; I am however the power-of-attorney and appointed executrix (for when the time comes) for a couple of elderly relatives, who are siblings. There is a third sibling whom I expect to create havoc when the one sibling dies. She has no legal standing, but that doesn't mean she can't sue anyway. As the lawyer says, facts don't keep the crazies from coming out of the woodwork; when and if they do, we'll deal with it (and run up fees, alas).)
posted by cool breeze at 2:06 PM on April 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses! My cousin is working with a lawyer who will be the executor of her estate. But besides talking to my sisters about it, it sounds like we'll probably also need to run it past our family lawyer.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 10:04 PM on April 21, 2011

« Older Great movies/films/documentaries about the roots...   |   Looking for short farm/food films Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.