An executor is a fiduciary, meaning they have a legal duty to act in the best interests of the estate. When an executor fails to perform their duties or makes decisions that harm the estate, beneficiaries may have grounds to sue.
Who is an executor?
Executors are the people appointed to administer an estate. They can be part of a will, or they may get appointed by the probate court if a person dies intestate (without a will). An executor has many responsibilities, including notifying the probate court of the death, collecting and inventorying probate assets, paying probate debts and distributing probate assets.
What are the grounds for suing an executor?
An executor must perform their duties with care, prudence and loyalty to the estate. When they fail to do so or act improperly, beneficiaries can sue them for breach of fiduciary duty. For instance, an executor might make improper investments, misuse estate assets or fail to pay creditors. Additionally, if an executor engages in self-dealing, beneficiaries may sue for conflict of interest.
How does probate litigation work?
Beneficiaries can file a probate lawsuit to recover assets or damages from the estate. If they are successful, probate assets may be used to pay them. To begin probate litigation, beneficiaries should file a probate complaint with the court. The executor will then have an opportunity to respond to the allegations in the complaint. After that, the court may schedule a hearing to decide whether probate assets should be used to pay for the lawsuit.
The outcome of probate litigation will depend on the facts of each case. However, in most cases, if the courts find an executor culpable for their actions, the beneficiaries may receive some compensation for their losses.
If an executor fails to perform their duties well, including following the terms of a will, beneficiaries can file a lawsuit against them. Therefore, if you believe that an executor is not performing their duties properly, or has acted in a way that harms the estate, you can seek justice through the probate litigation process. Just remember that the probate court may not enforce provisions of a will that violate public policy or are otherwise unenforceable.