If you are the beneficiary to a will, assets you receive from the deceased may have to pass through the probate process first. During probate, a designated executor may be responsible for ensuring the will is valid, assessing the value of estate assets, settling estate debts and eventually distributing the remaining property.
However, with a high degree of responsibility comes a high degree of accountability. If an executor is slow to perform his or her duties or fails to communicate openly with you about the estate, you may have reason to suspect wrongdoing.
1. Delayed notification
One of the first duties of an executor is notifying parties to a will that they are beneficiaries. If you know or believe you are a beneficiary and a significant amount of time has passed since the date of death, but you have heard nothing, that may be cause for concern.
2. Refusal to share estate information
As a beneficiary, you may request that the executor provide documentation detailing their work and the status of estate assets. It may be a sign of misconduct if he or she refuses to provide the requested documents or tries to evade the request.
3. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest
An executor must put the wishes of the deceased and the interests of beneficiaries first when handling estate assets. Unfortunately, an executor may try to divert assets to themselves in a variety of ways, including purchasing assets without express permission, charging excessive fees for administrative duties or making investment decisions that are personally beneficial.
If you believe an executor has breached his or her duty, know that you and/or other beneficiaries may petition the probate court to appoint a new representative. You may also be able to pursue litigation against a dishonest executor to recover lost assets.