Most people who make a will have named an executor, also known as a personal representative, to take care of their assets after death. Beneficiaries expect the chosen executor to fulfill their fiduciary duties appropriately with respect to the deceased person and their estate. However, there are instances where the representative looks out only for themselves and mismanages the estate entrusted to them.
Having access to the deceased’s bank accounts and other assets may cause a few executors to act unlawfully. Heirs who suspect a personal representative is breaching their duties can choose to challenge them. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Failing to notify and communicate with heirs
The personal representative is expected to operate in the best interests of the heirs and the estate. Part of their responsibility is to notify all parties with an interest in the estate of what they are entitled to.
Beneficiaries have a right to ensure that the executor manages the estate properly. A lack of cooperation or communication is not a good sign.
- Withholding inheritances
Because of the complexity of probate, the process may take months to complete before the beneficiaries receive their share of the estate. In addition, executors must settle debts with creditors and pay taxes and probate fees before the beneficiaries receive anything. However, a personal representative cannot intentionally delay or withhold distributing assets for personal reasons, such as to punish a beneficiary.
- Missed deadlines
Executor must complete an estate inventory within three months following their appointment. Missing important deadlines and failing to share an estate appraisal with beneficiaries may be signs that the executor is not doing their job.
- Selling assets below market value
A personal representative can sell real estate but must return the proceeds to the estate’s account. Furthermore, it is their duty to accept the best offer. Beneficiaries should be wary of executors who sell assets for a low price as they may be benefitting from the sale.
Personal representatives bear a lot of responsibility, but they must always act in the best interests of the estate and the heirs. They may have a lot of power, but beneficiaries have rights too. If an executor breaches their duty, the heirs may file a petition and nominate a replacement.