Suing a Will Executor

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What is a Will Executor?

A will executor is the person who is appointed to manage and oversee the distribution of the deceased person’s property and money to the rightful beneficiaries (recipients of the property).  Regardless of whether a person leaves a valid will or if they died intestate, there generally be a will executor to assist with the probate process.   

If the person left a will, the executor will usually be named in the will document.  Hence, they will usually be called the “will executor”, or the “executor of the will.  In some cases, the court will choose and appoint an executor- for instance, if the person died without a will and the property will go through probate.  However, the duties and obligations of the executor will generally be the same in either case.

What are the Duties and Obligations of an Executor?

The duties of an executor generally revolve around the tasks that need to be completed with regards to the deceased person’s estate.  These can include: identifying all of the deceased person’s property and bank account funds; earmarking the property for distribution; identifying and contacting specific beneficiaries and heirs named in the will; resolving any tax debt or financial disputes regarding the property; and various other tasks.

Besides these duties, the will executor also has a number of ethical obligations to the beneficiaries.  These include the obligation to:

Lastly, the will executor will be bound by any specific instructions that might be contained in the will documents. 

What Should I Do if I’ll Be Suing a Will Executor?

One of the main difficulties when dealing with in general is that the original owner of the property is deceased and is no longer around to spell out how the property should be distributed.  Thus, the will executor has the responsibility of discerning what the testator’s intentions were with regards to the property.  In some cases, the will executor may make a major error with regards to the distributions.  This could expose them to legal liability if the error causes another person major losses.

It’s another story if the will executor acts intentionally to deprive a rightful beneficiary of their property distributions.  It is also a major violation if the executor attempts to skew the wording of the will in order to reap personal gain for themselves.  These are serious types of violations that can lead to a lawsuit and even criminal consequences.

If you suspect that you will be suing a will executor, you should attempt to document what you believe the violation involves.  You may wish to review the will documents to determine what your rights or the rights of the affected parties may have been.  Also, you may wish to make a written account of any statements or actions that the executor took that could be used as evidence against them.  These can be used in a court of law to help when the court is calculating damage awards.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Suing a Will Executor?

As you might be able to tell, these types of legal matters can be very complex, and will generally require the assistance of a qualified attorney.  You may wish to contact a wills and estates lawyer in your area if you need help or guidance when suing a will executor.  State laws may vary, and each legal filing will be different depending on the type of property involved.  However, working with a lawyer can help maximize your ability to resolve the specific legal issues you’re facing. 

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Last Modified: 01-14-2013 04:04 PM PST

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