When a person chooses the trustee of their trust, or the executor of their will, they want that individual to be competent, responsible, and fair. Many times, people choose wisely – their family member or close friend will ensure that their final wishes are carried out. Sometimes, however, the individual appointed as trustee or executor just isn’t up to the task. This can put an entire estate at risk.
Challenging a Trustee
A trustee is the person appointed to manage the money in a trust and distribute assets to the beneficiaries of the trust. Trustees are responsible for acting in the “best interest” of the trust, meaning that they should manage the trust with the same standard of care as they would their own finances.
If the beneficiaries believe that the trustee is not acting with a standard of care, they may want to challenge the trustee in court. Some of the reasons to challenge a trustee include:
- Lack of communication with beneficiaries
- Unorganized accounting of funds
- Poor investment performance
- Risky investments
- Negligently handling, or mishandling funds
- Excessive trustee fees
If a beneficiary believes that a trustee is mishandling the trust, they may want to reach out to an experienced attorney for help challenging that trustee. Challenging a trustee can be a lengthy, complicated process. But the first steps are gathering the appropriate trust documents, requesting a full accounting of the trust, and then filing a dispute in court. Beneficiaries can request that the court remove or even replace the trustee.
Challenging an Executor
An executor is the person responsible for collecting, managing, and distributing a person’s assets, as per their wishes in their Last Will & Testament. Executors pay off any of the deceased bills and debts, handle the tax filings, and finalize the estate. Beneficiaries are those who are named in a will to receive all or part of a person’s estate – these are often family members or close friends of the deceased.
Executors are legally required to follow the guidelines of the will; however, they may have to make decisions about when or how to distribute certain assets to the beneficiaries. Or, an executor may need to liquidate some of the estate assets in order to pay the decedent’s (the person who passed away) debts.
If an executor is acting in a way that’s contrary to the instructions of the will, or if they’re acting in their own self-interest, the beneficiaries of the will may want to challenge them. Other common reasons to challenge an executor include:
- The executor is missing, cannot be located
- The executor is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse
- The executor has a criminal record
- The executor does not file the will in probate court
- The executor is mismanaging the estate, and the assets are losing value
- The executor misuses funds for personal use
- The executor is not carrying out all of their duties as required by law
If a beneficiary believes that the executor is not acting in the best interest of the estate, they can file a lawsuit seeking the removal of the executor and asking the court for damages. An experienced estate attorney can help collect and prepare evidence to support any challenges against the executor.
Have Questions? Contact Brian M. Douglas & Associates
When a person memorializes their final wishes in a will or a trust, they hope and expect that those guidelines will be followed. However, problems do arise, and sometimes it’s up to the beneficiaries to protect their loved one’s estate and legacy. If you, or someone you know, is concerned about a trustee or an executor, please reach out to us. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and discuss your best options moving forward. To schedule a consultation with our estate planning team, you can reach us at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact page.