When someone dies and leaves behind a large estate, conflict often ensues. The surviving family members may fight over assets if there isn’t a highly-detailed estate plan to guide their distribution. Even if there is an estate plan, there could still be issues.
It is common practice for testators to name executors that they know, often a family member. That might mean that the executor for the estate will let their personal feelings or relationships influence what they do with estate assets. It’s even possible that your least-favorite sibling or a relative who has a grudge against you serves as the executor of the estate. They may use their position to punish you or deny you your inheritance.
What can you do when you disagree with the steps taken by an executor?
Compare their actions to the estate plan or state law
If someone dies with a will, the executor should uphold it rather than undermine it. They should follow the instructions provided by the testator, even if they would have personally distributed the assets in a different manner.
If someone dies without a last will, then intestate succession laws dictate who receives what property. One of the easiest ways to determine if you have a reason to take action against an executor is to review if their actions conflicted with the instructions left by the testator or state law. If they do, then you may have grounds to challenge them.
Did favoritism or personal benefit influence their actions?
Executors may violate their fiduciary duty to the estate for personal gain by stealing from the estate or even hiring their own company to provide services for it. They might violate their obligation to the beneficiaries of the estate by ignoring the instructions left by the testator and distributing property according to their own preferences.
Whether someone acted in their own best interest or out of spite for someone else in the family, their actions may constitute a breach of their fiduciary duty and could be grounds for removing them for their position. Knowing the obligations of an executor and your rights as a beneficiary can help you decide if you need to file a probate lawsuit.