Most view the task of estate administration as being a singular event. One’s estate is submitted to the probate court, evaluated and then dispersed accordingly. The role of the executor in this process is to ensure that claims against the estate are settled, beneficiaries are given whatever assets are meant for them, and to oversee any other tasks related to the estate’s management while the administration case is still open. That is indeed often all that is requested of whoever is called upon to fill this role. Yet in certain estate cases, the management of an estate never truly ends, forcing its executor to constantly be working to oversee issues related to its assets.
This is often true with estates that count intellectual properties and works of art amongst its assets. This can be seen in the case of the estate of the late singer Chris Cornell. The former frontman for the group Soundgarden committed suicide nearly three years ago. At the time of his death, he had created several unreleased recordings whose ownership was turned over to his estate. Now his former bandmates have alleged that Cornell’s wife is barring them from accessing those recordings so that they can release the unfinished album they were working on when Cornell died. His wife has countered by filing a lawsuit, saying that the group owes his estate unpaid royalties.
This case serves to demonstrate the potentially monumental (and long-lasting) task that an executor takes on when they agree to manage one’s estate. Thus, those making their estate plans should only consider parties they know to be capable of completing the task when determining who to assign this role to. Having the advice of an estate planning attorney can be a valuable asset during this process.