After a loved one’s passing, almost everyone wants the final affairs handled smoothly and as quickly as possible. In many cases, heirs and beneficiaries are waiting to obtain assets from the estate for sentimental reasons or even as a bit of financial help. As a result, when the executor seems to be stalling or assets seem to go missing, it can understandably cause considerable concern.
You may have had your suspicions that everything was not going right with your loved one’s probate case. The executor may have stopped answering your questions or started avoiding you altogether. You may have asked about a specific asset and received an unlikely answer from the executor, like that the executor had sold the item or that it was missing. Any of these issues can raise red flags.
What can you do?
If you believe that the executor has carried out questionable actions during probate, the smooth process you likely hoped for will probably not occur. In fact, you may need to take legal action to have the executor account for his or her actions and potentially to have the executor removed from the position. You could petition the probate court to demand an accounting of the executor’s activities. If the proceedings reveal wrongdoing, the court may revoke the executor’s power and appoint a new representative.
The executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate and its beneficiaries, meaning that he or she should act in the best interests of those parties. If he or she does not, a breach of duty has occurred, which can warrant a civil claim. This option could allow you to sue the executor for damages caused by his or her dishonesty, including paying back any money stolen from the estate, paying court fees and providing compensation for other damages.
Is it worth the effort?
Depending on the situation, you may wonder whether taking legal action against the executor is worth the time and effort. However, if the executor is stealing from the estate and otherwise not adhering to the laws that apply to the position, holding that person accountable for that wrongdoing is wise. Of course, having concerns about taking such steps is understandable, and discussing the matter in more detail with a knowledgeable Seattle attorney could help you determine whether it is the right course of action for your case.