Klenk Law

Tag: Standard of Care for Fiduciaries

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.

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.

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.

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.

Executor Bad Acts – Request a Schedule of Distribution

Posted on Fri Jul 24, 2015, on Probate and Estate Administration

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My stepfather died about a year ago and left me a very nice truck in his will. The executor stopped taking my calls about when I would get the truck. I just found out he used the truck to haul his boat on a recent fishing vacation. How do I get the executor to give me my inheritance?

Just when I think I’ve heard it all about bad executors, you give me a story of an executor who drives estate assets on his own fishing trip.

Can I distribute estate assets if a claim is pending?

Posted on Mon Jun 8, 2015, on Estate Litigation

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the executor of my mother’s estate in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. I have advertised the estate and paid all the valid creditors, but a neighbor of my mother has made a claim for $10,000.00 that has no validity. Can I make distribution without paying him?

Although it’s technically possible, the correct answer is that you should not.

As the executor, you are free to make “at risk” distributions. That means if you later lose a claim, you’re personally at risk. Keep in mind, Pennsylvania is a rather creditor-friendly state.

How do I get answers about an inheritance in Atlantic County?

Posted on Tue Jun 2, 2015, on Formal Accounting

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My husband’s aunt willed him a share of the proceeds on the sale of her jewelry, but the executor told us that the money was mine and sent me a check. We looked up the will ourselves at the Atlantic County Surrogate, and it looks like my husband should get more money. The executor will not answer our questions. What can we do?

As an heir listed in the will, your husband has the legal right to force the executor to account for the estate. Even though the money landed in your household, there could be plenty of reasons for you to insist that the cash is properly accounted for.

When should I expect to receive my inheritance?

Posted on Tue May 19, 2015, on Estate Litigation

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My Grandmother died three years ago in Lehigh County leaving me a lump sum in her Will. The house is sold and the taxes are paid, but I have not received my inheritance. The executor will not return my calls, what can I do?

As the heir of a Lehigh estate, you have the right to force the executor to provide you with a timeline for when you will receive your inheritance. If the executor will not give you one voluntarily, you can have your Lehigh County Orphans’ Court lawyer file a Petition for Accounting with the court. The executor must reply, or face potential removal and surcharge.

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