Skip to Content

We are a Veteran Owned Business, providing 20% discounts for Veterans, First Responders, Elementary and High School teachers. We remain open during the shutdown period, so please contact us to set up a phone or Zoom meeting. Taking care of you and your family, It's What We Do!

Klenk Law

Formal Accountings

Every beneficiary and every fiduciary should understand Compelling Accountings and Defending Accountings. A court can require a fiduciary to provide a detailed report of the assets managed and justification for expenses incurred. This report is called an “Accounting”.

There are two forms of Accountings; Informal Accountings and Formal Accountings.

What is an Informal Accounting?

The fiduciary creates and submits an Informal Accounting only to the interested parties without court oversight. An Informal Accounting’s complexity will depend on what information the interested parties require. Some beneficiaries only want copies of bank statements while others require detailed breakdowns and reports.

What is a Formal Accounting?

The fiduciary submits a Formal Accounting to the court, as well as to all interested parties. The fiduciary files Formal Accountings in specific, detailed formats. It takes a great deal of time to learn these formats. To save time, judges want all Accounting in the same format. A Formal Account will require a filing fee and at least one court appearance.

Reasons to Compel a Formal Accounting:

An interested party does not need a specific reason to compel a Formal Accounting. Obtaining a Formal Accounting is a right. But, Formal Accountings are expensive so shouldn’t be sought lightly. Common reasons to seek a Formal Accounting include if you believe the executor, agent or trustee has committed Theft, Misappropriation of Property, Co-Mingled Assets or has Abused Power. Suspicion that these acts took place is not enough, you must provide the judge evidence.

If an interested party believes that an Executor, Agent or Trustee has stolen property, misappropriated property, co-mingled assets or abused power, it is wise to hire an Estate Litigation Attorney to force the fiduciary to file a Formal Account. In this process, the Estate Litigation Lawyer can obtain an order allowing discovery. This allows the lawyer to depose the fiduciary, subpoena evidence, obtain records and interview witnesses.

If the fiduciary will rectify the harm, the judge will hold a hearing where the Estate Planning Lawyer will present the evidence gathered. If after hearing all the evidence the judge finds the fiduciary was wrong, the judge can order the asset returned and surcharge the fiduciary for expenses and order the fiduciary’s removal.

Should I Provide a Formal Accounting or an Informal Accounting?

In the end, the goal of every accounting is to satisfy the interested parties enough to release the fiduciary from liability. Depending on the complexity of the matter and the litigiousness of the parties involved, a Formal Accounting can expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, an Informal Accounting is more desirable. But sometimes an Informal Accounting won’t work. The personalities involved or the real or perceived wrongful acts may require a Formal Accounting.

Can the Fiduciary Voluntarily File a Formal Accounting?

Yes, fiduciaries have a right to file Formal Accountings to obtain a judge’s release from liability. A fiduciary has a right to retain an Accounting Attorney to help Assemble and Defend a Formal Accounting. Once submitted to the court each party receives a copy of the Formal Accounting. Interested parties may have their Accounting Lawyer file objections, Contesting and Objecting to the Accounting. If parties do not settle, the judge holds a hearing. The judge listens to each side and then renders a decision. If the judge finds the fiduciary’s actions reduced the estate the judge may surcharge the fiduciary.

Accountings by Agents, Powers of Attorney.

A Durable General Power of Attorney gives an “Agent” power to manage assets. An interested person can Compel the Agent to file a Formal Accounting, explaining every action taken and justifying every expense. In the alternative, in order to obtain a release of liability, an Agent can Assemble, Submit and Defend a Formal Accounting.

Assembling, Submitting and Defending Accountings for Agents.

If you served as an Agent you would be wise to receive a legal release for your service. First of all, long after you have completed your duties the court might force you to file a Formal Accounting if you have no release. Further, it is better to file your Accounting when you still have the funds to pay for the costs. Delaying may prove costly. Especially relevant, you will personally shoulder the cost to assemble and defend the Formal Accounting.

Has a Beneficiary has obtained a court order compelling you to account? If so, it would be wise to have the Formal Accounting prepared and defended by an experienced Accounting Lawyer. If you are unprepared, the judge could surcharge you for any amount you cannot properly explain.

Compelling An Agent To Account:

Are you are an interested person who believes an Agent has abused their powers? If so, you may have your Estate Litigation Attorney file a Petition forcing the Agent to file a Formal Accounting. Once filed, the interested parties may Contest and Object to the Accounting. If the judge believes the Agent’s actions wrongfully reduced the estate, then the judge may surcharge the Agent. If the Agent cannot recover the funds, the Agent must replenish the estate with the Agent’s own funds.

Accountings by Executors.

Some states use the term Executor while others use Personal Representative to describe the fiduciary named in a Will. When there is no Will the state appoints an Administrator. Whatever your title, obtaining a full release of liability before distributing any estate assets is essential. Beneficiaries have the legal right to Force the Executor to file a Formal Accounting. This accounting must detail every asset and justify every expense. These are estate expenses. If the Personal Representative has already distributed the estate assets then there are no funds to pay this bill. But, the Executor must still incur the cost which will then likely come from the Executor’s own funds. The court has little pity for an Executor who fails to obtain the release before foolishly distributing funds. For this reason, if the beneficiaries refuse to sign an Informal Accounting, the wise Executor Assembles, Files and Defends a Formal Accounting while the estate still has funds to pay the legal bills.

Executor’s Defensive Accountings, Defending Accountings for Executors:

Executors are subject to personally liable. Therefore, Executors, Personal Representatives or Administrators may retain an experienced Probate Attorney using estate funds. Further, you may use estate funds to hire an experienced Accounting Lawyer. This lawyer can prepare, file and defend a Formal Accounting. There is no excuse for making a distribution without first obtaining your protective release. If the beneficiaries will agree to sign an Informal Accounting, all the better. But if even one beneficiary refuses, then the accounting’s cost is a justifiable estate expense.

Has a Beneficiary has obtained a court order compelling you to account? If so, it would be wise to have the Formal Accounting prepared and defended by an experienced Accounting Lawyer. If you are unprepared, the judge could surcharge you for any amount you cannot properly explain.

Forcing an Executor To Account:

An interested beneficiary has the right to refuse to accept an Informal Accounting. Instead, the beneficiary may retain an experienced Accounting Attorney. This lawyer can force the Personal Representative to prepare, file and defend a Formal Accounting. Once filed, interested parties may Contest and Object to the Accounting, pointing out errors, lies or misleading entries. If the Executor or Administrator has acted in a way that reduces your inheritance, the judge can surcharge the Executor. The court may order any difference made up from the Executor’s own funds.

Accountings by Trustees.

A Trustee has a fiduciary duty. The beneficiaries, therefore, have the right to force the Trustee to file a Formal Accounting. In this accounting, the Trustee must explain every transaction and justify every expense. The interested parties may Contest and Object to the Accounting’s terms. If the Trustee’s actions have wrongfully reduced the trust assets, the judge may surcharge the Trustee. The Trustee must use the Trustee’s own funds to replenish the Trust.

Defending Accountings for Trustees:

A Trustee can be personally liable. Therefore, expenses incurred in obtaining an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer’s advice are reasonable, ordinary and deductible. First of all, the wise Trustee each year obtains a legal release for all actions taken the prior year. The Accounting Attorney accomplishes this with an Informal Accounting release. If the beneficiaries will not sign an Informal Accounting release, the Accounting Attorney can Prepare, File and Defend a Formal Accounting. Especially relevant, the cost of preparing, filing and defending the Formal Accounting is a deductible, normal trust expense.

Has a Beneficiary has obtained a court order compelling you to account? If so, it would be wise to have the Formal Accounting prepared and defended by an experienced Accounting Attorney. Most noteworthy, the judge could surcharge you for any amount you do not properly explain.

Compelling Accountings for a Trustee:

A Trust beneficiary has the right to retain an Accounting Lawyer. As a result, the beneficiary then has an advocate who will petition the court to force the Trustee to file a Formal Accounting. The Trustee must comply. The Formal Accounting must detail all assets and justify all expenses. The Accounting Attorney may then Object to anything in the Formal Account. Iff the judge believes the Trustee’s actions reduced the trust the judge may surcharge the Trustee. If the Trustee cannot recover the funds, the Trustee must use the Trustee’s own funds to pay the surcharge.

We Can Help!

If you have any questions about Formal Accountings or any other estate law topics, please contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Reasonable Prices | Years of Experience | We Stand With You and We Fight For You.

For more than two decades Klenk Law has focused only on Estate Law. We’ve seen it all, and this experience allows us to explain complex Estate Law and Formal Accountings clearly and concisely. If you are involved in Probate Litigation, our experienced Probate Litigation Attorneys will make it easy for you to understand and provide top notch representation so you can make the best decisions.

Why Choose Us

Our Experience Saves You Money.

Many firms assign Estate Litigation cases to their young lawyers or a general litigator. This is not cost effective. Being that Estate Litigation is what we do, our experience allows us to focus quickly on the issues that matter. By being focused, we arrive at the most cost efficient plan. We find the solution to your problem while the others are just warming up.

We Have a Deep Bench, Let’s Put it to Work!

While some firms litigate, few of them have whole departments focused exclusively on estate matters. At Klenk Law, our Probate Litigators have the luxury of partnering with other lawyers from our Probate or Estate Planning Departments. The depth of experience we can focus on your case is truly impressive. Whatever issue you are facing, our team has the answer.

Offense or Defense, We Have You Covered.

Our breadth of experience allows us to successfully represent beneficiaries taking on lazy trustees and executors. In the same way, we are equally skilled at protecting trustees and executors from ungrateful beneficiaries. Whether you are a fiduciary, agent, guardian or beneficiary, our skills will best represent your case.

What Our clients are saying

Klenk Law Logo

I was referred to Peter after my divorce to put documents together to protect my assets. He suggested a number of documents that would help protect my children and their future. Also, he put together wills, power of attorney and living wills. I initially spoke with him on the phone, he took 30-40 minutes to understand my situation and explain the benefits of having such documents. After a week or two, I met with him in his office and signed the documents. Everything else was remote phone calls and emails. He re-explained these documents and what whom to share. I am in good hands.

Klenk Law Logo

Peter explained a complex subject very clearly, helped us to decide the best approach to managing our estate and then made it very easy for us to execute the required documents. He will be a valuable resource for years to come and clearly has a great understanding of estate law that will lead to innovative solutions for us. I would unhesitatingly recommend him for estate planning.

Klenk Law Logo

Peter came highly recommended by a close friend to do our estate planning. We have been putting off for years. He is knowledgeable, professional and easy to work with.

Klenk Law Logo

Peter recently gave a presentation about Wills & Trusts at my employer, and it was fantastic! He was extremely knowledgeable and provided valuable information to the group. People were very engaged and asked several questions, all of which Peter thoroughly answered. Personally, my husband and I have selected Peter to help us with our estate planning, and he has been very helpful in providing us with all of the information we need to provide a secure future for our family. Thank you, Peter!

Klenk Law Logo

Peter is a model attorney who puts his clients first at all costs. His extensive expertise in estate planning and tax planning was a great comfort as we began, and have expanded, our family. He is very thoughtful, generous, and quick witted. His approach towards his business has been an inspiration to his peer group, and his zest for life is extremely infectious. Without reservation, I highly recommend Peter as trusted and cherished counsel

Let us put our expertise to work for you.

Free consultation within 24 hours.