Most families assume it could never happen to them, but estrangement and estate battles are all too common when the administrator of an estate is playing fast and loose with the rules that govern a decedent’s estate.
If you are not the administrator, it may be difficult to discern whether or not the estate duties are being carried out properly and that the assets of the estate are preserved throughout the often lengthy probate process. Below are some suggestions for red flags to be aware of during probate.
The administrator appears to be biased
If the administrator of a decedent’s estate is a relative, it is conceivable that prior disagreements or poor relationships among siblings or stepparents can resurface now and affect the probate process.
If favoritism or other types of bias are causing problems, it may be necessary to petition the court to remove the administrator and place a neutral third party in that pivotal role.
Items from the estate disappear
The administrator bears the ultimate responsibility for securing the estate, so if beneficiaries are removing assets, that is a huge red flag that things are not being handled properly by the administrator. It is common to change the locks, access codes and passwords of the property contained in the estate.
Self-dealing by the administrator
While administrators have the right to be reimbursed from the estate for any out-of-pocket expenses they may cover, e.g., yard maintenance or home repairs, some may try to bleed the estate to line their own pockets.
What can beneficiaries do?
Understand that you are not powerless in a situation with a negligent or self-dealing estate administrator. Petitioning the court for a change in administrator and demanding a full accounting of all expenses and assets can give you a clearer picture of the situation you face.