The executor or personal representative of an estate should remain neutral in their attempts to fulfill someone’s obligations and uphold their final wishes. Estate administration requires that the executor locate the estate plan or will and submit those testamentary documents to the courts.
They must then distribute the property from someone’s estate in accordance with the instructions provided by the testator and state law. Unfortunately, some individuals entrusted with estate administration will allow their personal preferences to color how they perform their role.
How might an executor let their relationships with others improperly influence estate administration?
They may violate the terms of the will
The most extreme examples of improper estate administration would involve an executor knowingly deviating from the instructions provided in the will or trust not due to a court order but because of their personal wishes.
For example, if the testator left certain property to specific family members, the executor might claim they couldn’t locate those assets and allow someone else to retain them. Such actions, when provable, could lead to the courts reversing those decisions or even removing the executor from their position.
They may take too many liberties
Sometimes, executors make oversights when planning their estate. One of the most common is the failure to include a residuary clause addressing their personal property. Any assets that you do not specifically designate to particular beneficiaries will become the residuary estate.
There can be a lot of conflict related to those assets if a testator doesn’t explain what to do with them. The most common solution in this scenario might involve the executor giving everyone a specific share of those remaining assets or selling them and splitting the proceeds among the estate’s beneficiaries.
In a situation where an executor lets their personal preferences determine their actions, they might retain those assets for themselves or give them to another person. If an executor violates their fiduciary duty to you as an estate beneficiary or otherwise engages in verifiable misconduct, you may need to take them to court.
Initiating probate litigation can help you prevent certain estate transactions or remove an executor misusing their authority.