Klenk Law

Tag: Fiduciary Duty

Power-of-Attorney-Abuse

Power of Attorney Abuse

Posted on Wed Sep 7, 2016, on Power of Attorney

From Our “Ask a Question” mailbag: “I have heard stories about Power of Attorney abuse and theft. So, where do I keep my Power of Attorney?”

Power of Attorney abuse is a real problem. A typical durable general power of attorney gives your “Agent” the authority to access your accounts and sell your assets. These capabilities are essential so your Agent can take care of you. But, they are also powers that can lead to theft and fraud.

How do I get a Personal Representative to hold up their end of a will’s terms?

Posted on Mon Nov 16, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My Mom’s will says that all estate money is divided equally between her children. The Personal Representative said she would be writing us equal checks. It has been 9 months and I have not received a check. How do I get her to hold up her end of the will terms?

New Jersey gives the Personal Representative a great deal of unsupervised power to handle the estate. If you feel that this power is being abused, you have the right to force her to appear in court and explain herself. You can hire an attorney experienced in Surrogate’s Court litigation who can file for you a Petition forcing the Personal Representative to file a Schedule of Distribution, which is her road-map plan of how she will distribute the estate’s assets.

Philadelphia Power of Attorney Formal Accounting – Agent Wrongdoing

Posted on Sat Oct 31, 2015, on Formal Accounting

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother has Alzheimer’s, and my uncle has been handling her money for several years as her power of attorney. My sister and I are not given any information about how he is handling her money. Recently, he took his family on a long cruise that I know he could never afford on his own money. My sister and I feel he must have used our mother’s money to pay for his vacation. What can we do?

Your mother’s Power of Attorney names your uncle as her “Agent.” As Agent, he has a fiduciary duty to use those powers to care for your mother. In Pennsylvania, the Agent is given broad powers and very little oversight, but an interested person being able to easily get a court order for the Agent to account for every penny counter balances this flexibility.

Is the Personal Representative personally liable to the estate beneficiaries?

Posted on Fri Oct 30, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I filed my father’s will with the Surrogate and was named the Personal Representative, but am having second thoughts. My family is litigious. Can I be sued and found personally liable?

By accepting the position of Personal Representative you became a fiduciary with a duty to the beneficiaries. If your family is litigious, you are right to be concerned. All the beneficiaries have the right to petition the Surrogates Court and ask the court to surcharge you should they feel any action you took reduced their inheritance. This could be a sale of land at too low a price, a fee you paid to a creditor, or even your salary.

If the executor is untrustworthy, how do I protect myself?

Posted on Fri Oct 23, 2015, on Estate Litigation

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother died a resident of Bucks County and named her sister as her executor. I am the beneficiary of the entire estate. My aunt filed the will last month, but has changed the locks on the house and refuses to answer my calls. She has a history of alcohol abuse and I am worried that she is spending the estate money on herself. Is there any way that I could freeze the accounts and protect my inheritance?

Pennsylvania executors are given a great deal of power to act on their own, without court supervision, and are not obligated to share much information with you on demand. This works well when the executor is honest, as the estate can be managed less expensively.

Can I be sued as the estate’s personal representative in Camden County?

Posted on Mon Oct 19, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My aunt’s will names me as her personal representative and divides the estate between all her nieces and nephews. We are not a close family and there have been disputes in the past. I am worried that my cousins will be angry that I was named the personal representative and may cause trouble. Can they sue me as the personal representative?

If you agree to be sworn in by the surrogate as the estate’s personal representative, then you have a fiduciary duty to all beneficiaries to act in their best interest. You will be given broad powers and will be largely unsupervised by the Surrogate. To counter these broad powers the beneficiaries are given the right to Petition Surrogate’s Court to review every action and expense.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty by Philadelphia Executor

Posted on Thu Sep 10, 2015, on Estate Litigation

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: The will says that all funds are to be equally divided between the siblings. The executor is dividing things unevenly. We had an agreement how things were to be divided. What can I do if the Executor is not holding up her end of the will?

I believe what you are describing is an estate that has been opened with the Philadelphia Register of Wills and Letters Testamentary issued to one person, the Executor. The Will says that the estate is to be divided up equally between the deceased person’s children but, the Executor has decided on her own to divide up and distribute the estate’s assets unequally.

Is an executor for a Chester County estate liable for damages?

Posted on Fri Sep 4, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother named me executor, but I don’t get along so well with my brother and I am afraid he will sue me. Can I be personally liable as the executor?

The executor is a fiduciary, owning a duty of care to the beneficiaries. If your brother is an heir, he has the right to review all actions you have taken as executor and, if he feels any action you took reduced his inheritance, as the judge to surcharge you (fine you) so he receives the correct inheritance.

In many ways, being executor is a thankless task.

Philadelphia Power of Attorney Formal Accounting

Posted on Fri Jul 31, 2015, on Formal Accounting

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother named me her power of attorney. For years, I used it to pay her bills and care for her. My mother recently died in Philadelphia without a will. My sister thinks I stole some money, but that is not true. She has served me a citation to account for my actions under the power of attorney, what do I do now?

By accepting the position of agent through your mother’s Power of Attorney, you became a fiduciary. As a fiduciary, you owed your mother a duty to look out for her best interest. But that job also comes with the obligation to explain your actions as Agent to certain people.

Executor Wrongdoing in Camden County, New Jersey – Steps Needed

Posted on Wed Jul 29, 2015, on Estate Litigation

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: For years, my parents lent money to my cousin and his wife to pay their children’s education. To my surprise, at their deaths, my cousin’s wife was named executor. She “hired” my cousin who is a CPA to handle the estate’s books. Over a year has passed and they refuse to give me any information about the estate and are calling the loans to them, “gifts”. What can I do?

I take it that you are the residuary beneficiary of the will? If so, you have the right to demand through a formal accounting to know where every penny went and a justification for every expense. You also have a right to investigate whether all those years of funding education and other money transfers were gifts or loans.

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