Remedies When An Estate Executor Breaches Duty
An executor may make an illegal move by favoring some beneficiaries, using the estate's assets for his or her benefit or even disregarding the decedent's wishes. Luckily, the makers of probate laws foresaw such problems and put in place the necessary remedial measures. Here are three examples of these measures:
Petition the Court to Replace the Executor
The court will not interfere with executors' actions as long as they are in line with the decedent's wishes or for the benefit of the estate. However, blatant mistakes that cost the estate money may result in the executor's removal.
If you have an interest in the estate--for example, if you are a creditor expecting his or her case to be settled--you can't just sit by and watch the executor swindle the assets. You can file a petition for the removal of the executor, convince the court of your accusations, and it will relieve the executor of his or her duties. The court will then appoint a new executor to handle probate.
Sue the Executor for Damages
If the executor's mistakes have resulted in significant financial loses, then merely replacing him or her will not be enough. Any interested party that the executor's actions have harmed may sue him or her for damages in a civil court. In fact, you may demand both for the original damages and the associated expenses that you have incurred in trying to recover the lost finances.
Note that you may need the consent of other interested parties (such as other beneficiaries) to proceed with the lawsuit. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible if you are contemplating a civil lawsuit against an executor; there may be statutes of limitations that may bar you from instigating the suit if you delay.
Make a Claim against the Executor Bond
Another avenue for recovering damages due to an executor's actions to is to make a claim against his or her bond. The executor bond (or probate bond) is an insurance coverage that the executor takes to shield the estate from losses that may arise due to his or her negligence. Some people include clauses in their will requiring executors to buy the insurance before proceeding with probate. If the will has such a provision, then you can recover the losses by filing a claim with the relevant insurance company.
See an attorney fast if you suspect something is amiss with your inheritance, and the executor of the estate isn't providing satisfactory answers; there may be time-frames within which you are allowed to make your complaints, so a delay may cost you dearly. Contact an estate planning attorney like one from Goldman & LeBrun for more information.