When Administrators Sue to Recover Estate Assets

What happens when someone won’t return an estate asset?

San Mateo estate planning attorneys know that the best way to secure your own future and that of your loved ones and ensure that your property ends up in the hands of those you want to have it after you’re gone is through a comprehensive estate plan.

While an estate plan virtually always results in your wishes being followed, sometimes will contest or other wrinkles arise that may threaten your plans and/or result in estate litigation.

When a person has a will drafted, they have generally named someone they trust to be the executor of it. That person, if they accept the responsibility, has a duty to guide the decedent’s will through the probate process, pay creditors, and distribute assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the decedent’s wishes. When someone dies without a will, or dies with a will that doesn’t appoint an executor, or the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve, the court will appoint an administrator to do the job the executor would have done.

The duty of administrators or executors is to gather, secure, maintain and account for the estate’s assets on behalf of the intended beneficiaries of the estate. Sometimes, there may be disputes and litigation involved in fulfilling this duty.

Recently, an estate administrator reportedly had to commence litigation when the testator’s wealthy adult son– an “underwear tycoon” — refused to return a painting to the estate of his father, a wealthy man with an extensive art collection. The son allegedly borrowed a painting and lent it to a museum while the father was alive but the father and son reportedly had a falling out sometime thereafter.

When the estate requested the painting back from the museum, representatives allegedly advised the estate representatives that the painting had been returned to the son years earlier. The administrator is the stepmother of the son and the surviving spouse of the decedent and the painting in question is reportedly valued at $30,000-$50,000.

Unfortunately, estate litigation costs the estate time and money which to depletes the estate’s value and the ultimate amount distributed to beneficiaries. So, it’s important to use a skilled estate planning attorney to make your estate plan as solid as possible to avoid or minimize estate litigation.

If you need assistance with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, Biddle Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

With offices in San Mateo and Belmont, we represent clients throughout California in all matters of estate planning and estate administration including but not limited to San Matteo, Burlingame, Foster City, San Carlos, Redwood City and Belmont.