Question: My father died over two years ago and the executor has not yet sold the Brigantine house and will not return my calls, what can I do?
The executor is a fiduciary, with an obligation to follow the terms of the Will.
First, the beneficiary should examine the Will. Does the Will give any specific instructions concerning the house? Klenk Law often states in the Wills they draft that real estate “shall be sold”, to be clear that the executor needs to move forward selling the property. This also helps stop disputes between children when one child wants to keep a house and the other wants it sold. If the will says the house “shall be sold”, then the child who wants the house has to step up and buy it.
If the Will says nothing about the house, then the executor may be contemplating distributing the house “in kind”, meaning not selling it, but giving it outright to the appropriate heir. If so, the executor needs to explain why after two years the house is still in the estate.
If the executor will not communicate with a beneficiary, they have the absolute right to retain an experienced Surrogate Court Attorney and file a Petition in Atlantic County forcing the executor to “Account”. The judge can force the executor to account for every penny, plus provide a “Schedule of Distribution”, which is an explanation of the executor’s plan to turn over the estate assets to the beneficiaries. Through this process, the beneficiary will find out why the house is not being sold and, if necessary, have the judge order the executor to force the house’s sale.
It is also possible in this process to Petition to have the executor removed and replaced. If it can be proven that the beneficiary has suffered a financial loss because of the executor’s actions (or non-actions), they can also ask the judge to “surcharge” the executor out of his own funds to repair your loss.
If anyone has questions about Atlantic County Probate or Executor Accountings, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Wills, Trusts and Estates, It’s all we do!