In some ways, the executor of an estate has significant authority. They will be the one to attend probate court hearings and control estate assets. However, in most cases, they are subject to two crucial forms of control.
The first is that they must abide by both state law and the written instructions provided by the testator. The second is that they must act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. They should fulfill their duties for the benefit of those who will receive property of the estate and try to maximize what they pass along to those beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, some executors let their position of authority go to their heads. They may abuse their power or take actions that are clearly not in the best interests of the estate itself or the people set to receive property from it. What can the beneficiary of an estate do if they disagree with the actions an executor has taken?
They may be able to go to court
The circumstances will determine the best options for the person unhappy with the actions of the executor. In a scenario where a failure to act has negatively affected the estate or obviously improper resource management has diminished its value, beneficiaries may have grounds to potentially ask the courts to intervene.
They can remove an executor who proves incompetent or who fails to fulfill their responsibilities. Beneficiaries of an estate could also take action when they have reviewed the terms of the estate plan and recognize that the executor has done something contrary to the wishes of the testator.
Finally, in a scenario where the executor announces their intent to complete a transaction, like selling real property, the beneficiaries could challenge that action if they believe it is not in the best interests of the estate. An example would include selling the real property for less than the fair market value and potentially depriving beneficiaries of tens of thousands of dollars in the process.
While no one wants to challenge a loved one’s estate and make the process even more contentious and expensive, sometimes going to court is the only option when the process of preserving someone’s legacy and protecting people’s inheritance rights is at stake. Recognizing when probate litigation is necessary can help protect beneficiaries who are rightfully concerned about their inheritance.