I am the Executor of a Lehigh County, Pennsylvania estate. Should I be worried about the beneficiaries attempting to surcharge me?
As an executor, you have a duty to take possession of, maintain and administer all the real and personal estate of the decedent. In essence, you must preserve and protect the property for distribution to the proper persons within a reasonable time, in the manner a reasonably prudent person would in their own affairs.
When an executor fails to fulfill this duty, the court may impose a surcharge. A surcharge is a penalty imposed to compensate the beneficiaries for loss in value to Estate assets. The loss had to have been caused by the executor’s failure to meet his duty of care, not simply an error in judgment. A beneficiary would initially bear the burden of showing the executor’s failure to meet the proper standard of care.
The Lehigh County Orphans’ Court has broad discretion in surcharge cases including the full power to inquire and determine all questions that may prevent or delay the conversion and distribution of property. After reviewing the facts and law, the court can grant relief “as equity and justice shall require.”
This power is extremely broad. This includes power to surcharge the personal assets of the Executor for mismanaging funds, or surcharging for return Executor’s compensation to the Estate. The assistance of an experienced Lehigh County Probate Attorney can help ensure your personal assets never become the target of a surcharge.
If you need assistance with probate in Lehigh County, please call one of our Probate Lawyers or Estate Planning Attorneys for a free consultation.