From Our “Ask a Question,” Mailbag: “I am the executor of my father’s estate. My father gave me the house, and the rest is divided equally between my two sisters and me. My sisters are angry about this. They refuse to sign the family settlement agreement and keep threatening to challenge the will. Any suggestions about executor problems with beneficiaries?”
Estate Planning Lawyer, Peter Klenk
Executor Problems with Beneficiaries?
As the Executor, you are given a great deal of power to manage the estate. But, in the end, you do want a full release of liability. A signed Family Settlement Agreement is a vital, final step. No money should be released to a beneficiary until you have obtained a finalized agreement.
Your siblings are free to refuse to sign the agreement. But that doesn’t tie your hands. You are free to have our Estate Litigation attorneys file a petition and formal accounting with the court. This formal accounting forces your sibling’s hands. They must respond, or they lose all their rights to challenge at a later date.
Formal Accountings, Bringing Matters to an End.
Formal Accountings are served on all interested parties. They then must respond, objecting to what they believe is incorrect. We find that obstinant beneficiaries without legitimate complaints fail to object. This brings the matter to an end.
Who Pays for the Formal Accounting?
As an executor, you have the legal right to use estate funds to pay for the accounting. You retain us as the executor, and the cost is deductable against any Inheritance or Estate Taxes.
For more detailed information, please see my article on Formal Accountings.
What if a Beneficiary Objects?
If there is an objection, you must respond. As your lawyers, we file a response to the objection. Then the judge schedules a time to review the evidence. The judge is not a detective. All evidence must be brought to the judge using the court’s formate. The rules of evidence apply, so having an experienced Estate Litigation attorney is vital.
The judge listens to both sides, then decides. For example, let’s say your sister claims you sold the house for too little. To respond, we would present to the judge the appraisals and the realtor’s testimony. Your sister would need to present her own expert. The judge will not give much weight to your sister’s opinion. Once the judge has heard the evidence, the judge will rule one way or the other.
Can I Make My Sister Pay for the Accounting?
Though you may wish to shift the cost to the objecting sibling, you likely will not be successful. Just as you have the right to file an accounting, a beneficiary has the right to object to your actions as executor.
In Conclusion: What to do about Executor Problems with Beneficiaries?
I hope you found helpful this short article responding to the question, What can I do about Executor Problems with Beneficiaries. I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you would like to know more, or have an estate that needs our help, contact us. Let our Probate and Estate Litigation lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
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