Jack H. Gasntner passed away in February 2012. He was 84. His wife had passed away a few months earlier. They had no children and few friends. After his body was cremated, the funeral director’s bill was unpaid. As is allowed by Nebraska law, he was appointed as personal representative. At that time, there was no known will.
Gsantner’s home in Omaha’s Keystone neighborhood was inspected by the personal representative. There he found $5.28 million in assets; mostly bank accounts and securities. It turned out that Gsantner at one time owned 20 rental properties and one town home in Arizona remained.
Gsantner was well-known to be quite frugal. “He would sneak cheap beer into restaurants to avoid paying for drinks.” The personal representative found 40 cases of Red, White and Blue beer along with 600 rolls of toilet paper in the house. One neighbor said, “He never dressed like he had a dime.”
After serving in the Navy, he graduated from Yale College in 1948; the same era as President George H.W. Bush. After college he played bass for a popular Omaha orchestra. His day job was as a billing clerk at the Union Pacific Railroad. His dad was a dentist and owned real estate at 76th and Pacific which was subsequently developed.
The personal representative eventually found a will but it was 18 years old. Many of the beneficiaries were already deceased including, presumably, the person he had selected as personal representative. Because the devisees were so remote, the Douglas County collected inheritance taxes of over $600,000.
The matter appeared before the Nebraska Supreme Court when the personal representative sought to be paid. Although he was not an attorney, CPA or banker, he alleged that his reasonable fee in the amount between, “1 and 3 percent of the estate or between $150 and $225 per hour.” In opposition, an attorney’s opinion was received into evidence that a reasonable fee for a lay personal representative was $15 to 25 per hour unless there was a preexisting fee arrangement.
The county court judge held that a reasonable fee was $25,000 and the Supreme Court affirmed.
The personal representative kept a log showing that he spent 400 hours on his tasks, but it was never offered into evidence. Why that happened was not explained in the opinion.
- Update your will or trust.
- Make sure your personal representative knows where the original will can be found.
- You can’t take it with you.
- Real estate can be a good way to generate wealth.
Sources. In re Estate of Jack H. Gsantner, 288 Neb. 222, 846 N.W.2d 646 (2014) and Omaha World-Herald, June 12, 2014.