Though you were close to your recently-deceased loved one, you may not have felt the desire to handle the final affairs of his or her estate. As a result, when asked about taking on the role of executor, you declined. However, that decision did not completely sever your connection to the remaining estate because your loved one bequeathed assets to you in his or her will.
Now, before you can obtain any inheritance, you must wait until the executor of the estate reaches the asset distribution portion of the probate process. Because you know probate can take a substantial time to complete, you may have utilized your patience and understanding and allowed the executor some breathing room in order to handle the likely-stressful proceedings. However, you may now have other reasons to feel concerned.
Breach of fiduciary duty
As a beneficiary of the estate, you have the right to obtain information regarding the estate and the process of settling its final affairs. As the executor, the person in this role has a fiduciary duty to you to answer any questions you may have and to act in the best interests of all the beneficiaries and the estate. A breach of this fiduciary duty may have occurred if the executor carries out any of the following actions:
- The executor avoids your attempts at contact.
- The executor will not provide you with requested information.
- The executor withholds information regarding estate investments.
- The executor treats you or other beneficiaries with hostility when you try to get information about the estate.
- The executor will not tell you how much estate property sold for.
- The executor is tight-lipped about what estate funds are being used for.
Because of the fiduciary duty, the executor should essentially be an open book when it comes to providing beneficiaries with estate-related information. If you feel that the executor is avoiding you or is hiding important information, you may want to find a way to have your concerns addressed.
Obtaining legal support
In a best-case scenario, you would have the ability to confront the executor about your concerns and reach a resolution to any issues. Unfortunately, that may not happen if the executor acts in a hostile manner or refuses to contact you. Therefore, you may need to explore your legal options for addressing a suspected breach of fiduciary duty. Filing a lawsuit and moving through probate litigation may prove necessary, and enlisting the help of a California attorney may allow you to gain reliable and applicable information.