Do you know what to watch out for in an executor? If you are the beneficiary of an estate that is in the hands of an untrustworthy executor, do you know your legal options? Executors are bound by law to perform their fiduciary duties honestly, but not everyone is up to the task.
What are an executor’s duties?
Executors have the court’s permission to handle several highly personal aspects of a person’s estate. An executor must do the following:
- Protect the assets of the estate
- Treat all beneficiaries fairly
- Follow a person’s final wishes
- Keep accurate financial records
- Report their actions faithfully
Unfortunately, this power also grants an executor the opportunity to manipulate the situation, falsify documents, and benefit financially from a beneficiaries’ inheritance. They have certain protections against beneficiaries that may also want a larger inheritance. This creates a power imbalance that can result in a costly and emotionally draining legal battle.
Do you suspect an executor is being dishonest?
An executor can be disqualified from duty by a judge if they have a criminal history of financial fraud, are currently battling addiction, or are psychologically vulnerable. However, if you or another beneficiary want to remove them as an executor, you must choose to do so carefully to convince a judge.
It will help your case if you and another beneficiary do the following:
- Carefully record distribution of assets (as you are legally able)
- Consider if you and the executor have a conflict of interest
- Identify what legal duty they have failed to perform
- Contact an estate mediator
The executor may have legitimate reasons for delaying a payment to a creditor or beneficiary, and they may have been counseled by a judge or other legal representative. However, if you suspect they are motivated by greed or dishonesty rather than acting in the best interest of the estate, you may want to pursue legal action to protect your loved one’s legacy.