How do heirs protect their rights from an uncooperative executor?

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How do heirs protect their rights from an uncooperative executor?

There are 3 heirs; 1 is the executor, who does not communicate with the rest. It appears that he is trying to de-value the estate by not liquidating assets of the estate in a timely manner. Our mother died 15 months ago and virtually nothing has happened except his expenses on a monthly basis. The value of the estate is only approximately $200,000 which includes cash and mainly property. What right do the other heirs have? Do the other heirs have to probate in a timely manner?

Asked on January 10, 2011 under Estate Planning, Louisiana

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

From the facts that you have presented, there appears to have been a breach of "fiduciary duty" by the executor (your brother).  This duty is the duty implied when someone is put in a position of trust to benefit other, such as that between an executor and beneficiaries if there is a Will (or a Personal Representative and heirs if there is no Will).  An executor owes a duty to exercise its obligations in accordance with the Will under which it was appointed (a PR owes a duty to an estate pursuant to state intestacy laws).  Accordingly, an executor (or PR) must at all times exercise good faith and put their interests second to the interests of the beneficiaries (heirs) and/or estate.      

Based on the fact that your brother has done nothing to advance the probate of the estate and yet still bills the estate or his services, as well as his lack of communication with the other beneficiaries, there may well be either fraud, negligence, and/or other misconduct at play.  Therefore, you can contact the probate court in question and/or consult directly with a probate attorney on all of this immediately.  You can challenge your brother's role as executor and have him removed for breach of his fiduciary duty.  Additionally, you will then need to have someone else appointed who can challenge any transfers and transactions that may have been made which were not in the best interests of the estate (and get the money refunded), and move to have an accounting of the estate.  If your brother, in his capacity as executor, is bonded (insured) you may also be able to go after any insurance money to recoup losses, if any. Again, a probate lawyer can best guide you in this.


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