Whatif an executor is not acting in good faith?

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Whatif an executor is not acting in good faith?

A dear friend was killed in a car crash a year ago. She named approximately 20 people as beneficiaries to her estate, myself included. When her home is sold the total amount of money is supposed to be divided equally amongst all of us. My friend has an attorney and named someone to oversee daily upkeep of the property, etc. A number of us do not feel the attorney nor the named person providing the day-to-day over site is working in good faith. My friend expected $400k for her home. Recently the price was dropped again to $250k. We think the lawyer keeps reducing the price to buy it for himself/resell. He has sold off all furnishings and valuables but refuses to share what was sold and where the money went. Do we have recourse?

Asked on June 8, 2011 under Estate Planning, Maine

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you may have recourse in this matter. There may well be a breach of "fiduciary duty" by this executor.  This duty is implied when someone is put in a position of trust to benefit other, such as between an executor and beneficiary (your situation). Accordingly a fiduciary must at all times exercise good faith. This means that hey must put the interests of the beneficiaries and/or the estate above their own.  Additionally, an executor must follow the law as it pertains to the distribution and/or handling of estate assets.     

From the facts that you have presented, either fraud, negligence, or like misconduct may be at play.  Consequently, the beneficiaries should contact the probate court in question and/or consult directly with a probate attorney.  The executor may be removed for breach of their duty.  If so, you will need to have someone else appointed who can challenge any transactions/transfers that may have been made which were not in the best interests of the estate. An accounting of the estate will have to be made.  The executor can be held personally liable for any losses, and if they are bonded (insured) you may also be able to go after insurance money to recoup losses, if any. Again, a probate lawyer can best advise as to all of this.


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