As a Beneficiary, Do I Have a Right to Question the Executor?
We receive a number of calls from beneficiaries having problems dealing with executors in probating an estate. Conflicts seem to arise most often when the executor is a step-parent of the beneficiary. These situations can be difficult, but it is important to know that as a beneficiary of an estate, you do have rights.
Technically, the executor works for the beneficiaries
The executor of an estate — regardless whether it is a family member, friend or the deceased's attorney — has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries to manage the estate in a way that promotes the best interests of the beneficiaries. After all, the property in the estate or a portion of it belongs to you. The executor's job is to manage and protect the property until it is ultimately distributed to you. A person who thinks otherwise should not have accepted the role of executor in the first place.
This means you are entitled to any and all information related to property left to you, even if it is a portion of joint property, to include an accounting, appraisal if applicable and proof of insurance.
How can I get information about property in the estate?
As a beneficiary, you can ask for this kind of information by sending a letter to the executor. If he or she fails to respond or the response in insufficient, you can ask the probate court to make the executor respond correctly and transparently. If the probate court finds the executor has wasted assets or distributed assets improperly, the executor can be held personally liable to reimburse the beneficiaries.
Remember, the purpose of having an executor or administrator assigned to an estate is to make sure the estate is managed properly — without unreasonable waste — and distributed according to the terms of the will and by law in a timely manner. The same holds true for trustees in charge of trust property.
If beneficiaries don't ask questions, no one will
If your loved one named you as a beneficiary of a trust or estate, it means he or she thought about your future and your well-being during the estate planning process. Beneficiaries do have rights, but they also bear the burden of holding the executor accountable when questions arise.
If you are the beneficiary of an estate or trust and have questions regarding your rights, contact us to discuss your situation. Our experienced probate attorneys explain fiduciary duties and the probate litigation process in Texas. Contact an experienced Bryan, Texas estate planning attorney at the Peterson Law Group today at 979-703-7014.