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Has an estate executor mishandled your inheritance?

Following the death of a loved one, there are many tasks to tend to. You may have a funeral to plan, relatives to contact and personal belongings to sort through. Eventually, you will have to deal with your loved one’s estate. However, this typically happens after probate. Probate is the process of settling an estate after someone dies. It includes identifying heirs, paying creditors and distributing the remaining assets. In most cases, an estate executor handles much of this work.

Your loved one may have named an executor in his or her will, or the court may have appointed someone to be the administrator. This person will be making many decisions, hopefully guided by the instructions in your loved one’s estate plan. However, what should you do if the executor fails to carry out those duties appropriately?

The tough job of an executor

There is no question that the job of an estate executor is not easy. It often means dealing with creditors, impatient heirs and estates in disarray. Locating and valuating assets and maintaining their values can be time-consuming and frustrating. Some decisions are delicate, such as selling off some assets to pay persistent creditors. An executor may also have to face an heir who claims the deceased verbally promised an asset that the will clearly designates to someone else.

Nonetheless, you may feel the executor of your loved one’s estate is violating his or her fiduciary duties toward you and the other heirs. This means the executor is placing his or her own wishes above yours, such as failing to carry out the terms of the will, hiding assets or not disclosing the true value of certain assets, either intentionally or simply through incompetence.

What are your options?

If you believe the executor of your loved one’s estate is jeopardizing your inheritance in some way, you may feel action is necessary. You may decide to petition the court to have the executor replaced. Additionally, you may want to seek restitution through the courts if the executor’s actions resulted in damages. You will likely have to go to court and present documentation or other evidence that the executor cost you by mishandling the assets or refusing to comply with the terms of the estate plan.

While this may seem like a drastic step, you may feel it is worth it if you have much to lose by the executor’s actions. A skilled litigation attorney can be a valuable asset through this complicated process.