The role of a will executor is to oversee the conditions of the will and settlement of the decedent’s estate in the best interests of the beneficiaries. The executor is responsible for ensuring debts and taxes are paid and distributing the remainder of the estates based on the decedent’s wishes outlined in the will.
Before being appointed by the court, the executor must file a probate petition and notify all heirs and individuals named in the will. If the executor does not properly inform beneficiaries about the will, the beneficiaries may contest the will and revoke the will’s admission to probate.
Depending on the size of the estate, assets, and liabilities, the legal process of executing the will can take many months or years to complete. Throughout the process, the executor has a duty to reasonably inform the beneficiaries as to the activity of the estate, such as:
- An inventory and value of the estate’s assets at the time of the decedent’s death.
- A list of estate assets leaving or entering during the will’s administration.
- Changes in the value of assets.
- Liabilities, debts, and taxes paid by the estate.
Additionally, beneficiaries have a right to be informed of activity involving the estate and should take an active role in its administration, including:
- Obtaining a copy of the will.
- Hiring a lawyer to review and confirm the will’s validity and for communicating and obtaining information from the executor.
- Understanding the inheritance and discussing any concerns with the executor regarding the inheritance.
- Acquiring a copy of the estate’s inventory.
- Obtaining the estate’s accounting for review by the lawyer.
- Requesting estate documents from the executor.
For beneficiaries who do not take an active role and the executor is operating with negligence or misconduct, the estate will likely suffer damage and the beneficiaries may lose inheritances.
All debts and taxes must be paid before the executor can distribute the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries. In some cases, if it is determined that there are sufficient funds to cover debts and taxes, asset distribution may take place beforehand.
If the executor refuses to provide estate information or distribute assets, they can face serious consequences, including being held in contempt of court, fined, or jailed, depending on the seriousness of their actions. Beneficiaries are entitled to petition the court to order the executor to carry out their duties or file a civil lawsuit to recover inheritances.
Having an executor removed requires proof that they are not communicating with beneficiaries, not properly executing the will, or are intentionally being fraudulent. Additionally, the court may also remove an executor if:
- They have not carried out the decedent’s wishes in accordance with the will.
- They have ignored the decedent’s wishes and will and have done nothing.
- They are mismanaging, stealing, or wasting the estate’s assets.
- The executor has been convicted of a felony after being appointed, making them ineligible to remain as executor.
- They have a conflict of interest, making them no longer suitable to perform executorship duties.
Beneficiaries can file a civil lawsuit against an executor if they can show the executor’s actions, or lack thereof, have caused them suffering, such as failing to protect assets or stealing money from the estate. The executor must have committed serious infractions for the court to intervene in either situation.
Media Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Advocate for Beneficiaries Experiencing Executor Misconduct
Having an executor who does not communicate and who does not distribute assets adds further grief to beneficiaries. One of our experienced Media wills and estates lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help. Call us at 610-565-3701 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.