The proper role of an “Executor” for an Estate requires that a “Fiduciary Standard” be upheld. Sometimes this high standard can be misunderstood – or even abused. The Executor is not to abscond with the assets of the Estate of the Decedent. The person selected and appointed to be responsible for administering your estate is typically a spouse, child(ren), close family member – or friend, attorney, or financial advisor. But what is the role of the Executor?
An Executor is someone who has been designated in a Last Will and Testament to “execute” the terms of the Last Will. This person is sworn in before a Court representative at the County where the decedent last resided, in order to oversee activities such as collecting the estate asset information, protecting the estate property, paying outstanding bills and distributing the estate properties to the named beneficiaries. If someone is appointed as an Executor, he/she may need to liquidate estate assets such as bank accounts, investment accounts, furniture, collectables, vehicles and/or real estate. The role of the Executor carries great responsibility involving detailed organization, and handling of the estate assets and debts. In some cases it can entail quite a bit of work, and some of it may even be complicated. Based upon the level of responsibility, it is very important to pick someone who is financially responsible and trustworthy.
Unfortunately, sometimes this does not happen, and the Executor may liquidate estate assets for personal gain, instead of adhering to the direction contained in the Last Will.
What Happens If an Executor Role is Misused?
If a family member, loved one, and/or possible beneficiary (including an organization or charity) believes that the named Executor has abused the privilege, then Court intervention may need to be requested. Remedies will be sought in order to make the estate “whole”, and to (possibly) remove the fiduciary designation of the individual. An immediate “temporary injunction” may be granted by the Court – to stop the abuse, while allowing sufficient time to conduct a closer inspection of the particular situation. The Court may then decide whether decisions made were in the decedent’s best interests, and whether abuse or self-dealing exists.
It’s important to note that innocent Executors may sometimes also find themselves being dragged into Court regarding a claim of suspected estate administration abuse. This possibility can be more prevalent in situations involving estranged family members and/or friends of the decedent, as they may not understand what the individual in question has been doing on behalf of the estate. In these types of situations, the Executor may need to seek out their own legal representation.
If you’re unsure whether an Executor’s role is being properly undertaken, it may be time to consult with a legal professional. Additionally, should you be named as an Executor, you should telephone our office at once for proper guidance as to your rights and obligations. Covelli Law Offices has over 36 years of experience in a variety of legal fields, including estate planning and administration. Contact Covelli Law Offices today for more information concerning the roles of an Executor in a Will.