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Estate Litigation: Filing a claim or lawsuit against the executor of a will or estate

When a person creates an estate plan, including a will, they will be required to name an executor who will be responsible for a number of tasks including the distribution of assets and payment of outstanding debts. While most executors complete their task to the highest standard of care, some do make unfortunate mistakes, some are caught in the middle of a fued,  and others betray the very person who trusted them with the responsibility. Whether you are the beneficiary of an estate and believe the executor has acted inappropriately, or you are an executor who has been named in a case, you should consult an injury lawyer for further advice.

Filing a claim or lawsuit against an executor

The following are general examples of how you might proceed with a civil case against an executor. State laws concerning the role and responsibility of an executor, as well as how an estate should be managed,  vary. For this reason it may be a good idea to ask an estate litigation lawyer to help you make a deducted decision on whether or not you can pursue legal compensation.

The role of an executor, also known as a personal representative, is to oversee an issues related to an estate. These include settling liabilities and debts of the decedent and distributing assets to any named beneficiary. The executor of an estate can be named in a civil claim or lawsuit that involves the estate; however, he or she is not necessarily liable for all of the estate’s obligations; and is only liable for damages that were a direct result of his or her actions while administering the estate.

Claims Against an Estate

It may be possible to sue an estate for damages that were caused by the decedent before their death, or to settle debts that are owed by the decedent. In either scenario, the party’s suing are attempting to become a creditor of the estate. In this case, the executor may be named, but not personally sued. Usually the executor would have an estate litigation lawyer on their side.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

An executor is a fiduciary. This means he or she has a duty to act in the best interest of the estate. Furthermore he or she should exercise due care as they carry out their responsibilities as an executor. Some of these responsibilities include maintaining accurate records, keeping intact communication with the beneficiaries, taking possession of the assets, so forth. If the executor fails to adhere to these fiduciary duties, they could face a lawsuit from the beneficiaries.

Fiduciary Duty Lawsuit

To file a lawsuit against an executor for a breach of fiduciary duty, an estate litigation lawyer will need to demonstrated that the executor had a relationship to the estate and a duty was breached. If this can be proved, monetary compensation may be redeemable. Examples of potential breaches include:

  • Selling assets or real estate for less than their true worth because of a poor valuation
  • Failing to sell property in a timely manner resulting in a rush sale that included a price much less than the properties’ value
  • Not distributing the property to the intended beneficiary in a timely manner
  • Failing to insure property that could be damaged
  • Paying out money to the wrong people
  • Stealing money
  • Acting in their own interests

How A Law Firm Can Help

Whether you are the executor of an estate and are concerned about a lawsuit against you, or are the beneficiary of an estate that appears to have been negligent handled by an executor, you may have legal options. Call an estate litigation lawyer today to learn more.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C., for their insight into estate litigation.