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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ensuring an Executor Fulfills His or Her Duties

An executor plays an extremely valuable role in the administration of an estate. He or she will make sure that bills are paid appropriately and make distributions to beneficiaries. The executor role is designed to make everyone’s life easier after a loved one passes.

Unfortunately, when the executor does not carry out his or her duties, an already difficult time can become even more challenging. Thankfully, beneficiaries can take action to address poor administrator performance.

The Role of the Executor

A decedent names an executor in his or her will. This person should be responsible and willing to take on this important duty. It is also possible to name more than one person as an executor (co-executors) or name someone as a secondary or successor executor should the first option be unavailable or unwilling to act as an executor. In some situations, unfortunately, the executor is simply not up to the task or is not performing his or her duties adequately. In those cases, it may be a good idea to get the Court involved.

Making Demands of the Existing Executor

In most situations, beneficiaries will end up working well with the executor because he or she is someone that the family knows and trusts. Some executors surprise everyone by shirking their responsibilities or being unreasonable about distributions or paying bills. If you have concerns, an informal conversation with the executor regarding your specific issues could adequately address the problem.

Unfortunately, however, some executors will choose to ignore your concerns. In those situations, beneficiaries have a few options. First, you may want to start with a formal demand letter regarding whatever issue you may have. The demand letter should clearly outline what you think the executor should be doing that he or she is not. You should also indicate what next steps you will take if your concern is not addressed.

You can draft and send this letter yourself, or you can retain an attorney to send this demand on your behalf. In some situations, it is a good idea to have a lawyer send this request. Some executors will only take the demand seriously if it comes from an outside source.

Requesting that the Executor be Removed

If your informal or formal requests are not being addressed, you may be able to have the executor removed. You do this by making a formal petition with the Court for removal.

Generally, you will need to show that the executor is not fulfilling his or her duties and that a removal is warranted. You will need to present evidence that the executor has violated a duty or is mismanaging the estate.

If you can make the required showing, the Court will permit the successor executor to take on the role. If no successor executor has been named, then the Court may appoint someone else. In some situations, the person petitioning the Court may ask to be named as the executor. The executor and the beneficiary can be the same person as long as he or she can carefully manage the estate for the benefit of all beneficiaries.

Removing an executor can be a tricky process, and you should have an attorney help you with this type of claim. Contact our firm today to learn how we can assist you with this challenging situation.

 


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