What do I do if a trustee or an executor doesn’t seem to be doing their job, is not keeping me informed, or is refusing to distribute the estate in any way?
This is very common, with usually dozens of cases like that going on at any given time.
We always try to avoid contention. A lot of times we are representing an executor or trustee and we tell them “Look, you’ve got to keep them informed. You’ve got to keep this moving along because if you don’t they’re going to go, ‘Alright, fine. Let me go hire my own lawyer.’ And then all of us start billing hourly and nobody wins but us.” This puts a responsibility on the trustee and the executor to carry out their duties, to do their job effectively.
Sometimes it is blatant. They’re just stealing money or they are living in the house and not paying rent and refusing to sell it. We’ve got a situation currently where they are running a business and not allowing the other side of the family to be part of it. In these situations, we very effectively file petitions demanding that the trustee or executor do their jobs, account for what they have been doing, or be removed and replaced either by our client or the court can appoint an independent fiduciary to take over everything. This is a common way for beneficiaries and heirs to be protected from somebody not doing their job.
Is there a way to be able to keep the executors accountable to what they are doing?
Yes, there is.
The step-by-step process is so clearly laid out on the probate code that the court itself will apply its own scrutiny on the trustee’s accounting to make sure they’re doing their job. The court will oftentimes be on the side of the beneficiary saying, “I just want to know what’s happening and you’re not doing your job. Fine, if you don’t want to do it, I will.”
Then one of two things happen, it’s either the trustee or executor hires a good lawyer who starts doing their job and we’re fine, or they don’t and they get some righteous indignation or they just refuse to communicate and we move forward and we are able to get them removed every time.