A person becomes the administrator of an estate in one of two ways. The deceased individual may have named them as their executor long ago when they drafted their estate plan. If they did not, then the probate courts may appoint someone to serve as the representative of the estate.
Handling an estate is not an easy or fast process. It requires months, if not more than a year, and a lot of commitment. Administrators will have to learn about their probate responsibilities and then fulfill them in a timely and appropriate manner.
Unfortunately, not all estate administrators successfully fulfill their obligations to the estates that they manage. When might you need to challenge the person appointed as the representative of the estate?
When they don’t initiate probate in a timely manner
If everyone in the family knows that one person is supposed to serve as the administrator of the estate, then you may simply wait for that individual to file paperwork with probate courts. Unfortunately, not everyone named as an administrator will step into the role and fulfill their obligations.
Some people, due to lack of knowledge, procrastination or busy schedules, may simply fail to file estate planning documents with the probate courts and notify creditors about the death. When an administrator does not act in a timely manner, the value of the estate could suffer.
When you believe they have breached their fiduciary duty
The person handling the estate should act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, not for their own benefit. Unfortunately, some people will hire their spouse to serve as a real estate agent or deviate from the estate plan for the benefit of certain family members because of their personal relationships.
When the administrator has behaved in an inappropriate manner, has attempted to profit off of their position or has played favorites while distributing assets, that could be a reason to challenge their position.
When they grossly mismanage estate assets
Whether a family member will move into the house included in the estate or the plan is to sell the property and split the proceeds among the beneficiaries, the representative of the estate must secure the assets, protect their value and take necessary steps to preserve if not maximize the long-term value of the estate.
Even if an administrator doesn’t act out of self-interest, they could potentially diminish the inheritance that everyone else receives through mistakes in estate administration or asset preservation. Beneficiaries may be able to challenge an executor whose incompetence or mishandling of the estate has impacted its overall value.
Understanding when you can challenge someone’s role as the estate administrator can help you stand up to misconduct or mistakes that would negatively affect your inheritance.