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The executor of a will has a handful of responsibilities when administering an estate – including accounting for all estate assets, debts, and money exchanges coming into and out of the estate. When the executor is finished the administration process and ready to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries, they are typically required to provide to the beneficiaries a comprehensive document accounting for everything that has gone into and out of the estate. Depending on the value and complexity of the estate administration process, this can be an extremely detailed, complex document. In the case of a careless executor, a beneficiary might raise questions over where assets have gone in the process of administration.
Sometimes, an inheritance can change a beneficiary’s life significantly, and it can become extremely stressful when the executor is not managing the estate as expected. Unfortunately, some executors have been found guilty of attempting fraud or theft by stealing assets of the estate and not accounting for them in their report to the beneficiaries. It’s important that beneficiaries proceed with caution in agreeing to the accounting and that they are able to ensure that all of the assets of the estate are accounted for so they don’t lose out on assets that are rightfully theirs.
If you’re a beneficiary who believes that the final estate accounts do not properly represent the assets of the estate, there are two options available to you:
While beneficiaries might feel helpless during the estate administration process, they do have certain beneficiary rights. Most importantly, beneficiaries are entitled to the accounting information during the estate administration process. An executor is legally required to give this information upon the request of a beneficiary. Beneficiaries can keep close eyes on the estate through the accounting information if they’re suspicious of the executor’s intentions.
If a beneficiary believes the estate assets have not all been properly accounted for, they can force the executor to act through petitioning the court for a passing of accounts. If this motion is granted by the courts, the executor then has to show to the courts everything that has been taken out of and gone into the estate from the date the executor was given control of the estate up to the date of the hearing. This process can bring clarity to any inconsistency in the accounts – where all the estate assets went, what fees and debts were paid, and who is receiving what from the estate. This can be an exhaustive process, but it will show, in detail, everything that left and entered the estate accounts.
After forcing the executor to act through requesting a passing of accounts, if the beneficiary is still unsatisfied, they can sue on the behalf of the estate or look to have the executor removed.
Beneficiaries may feel as if they do not have a lot of control over the estate administration process; however, they do have certain beneficiary rights available to ensure the process is done quickly and correctly. If you’re a beneficiary that thinks an estate asset has been misrepresented, contact an experienced estate lawyer today to begin solving this problem sooner rather than later.