In my practice, I advise and help protect estate Administrators, Executors, Trustee, Guardians and Conservators everyday. Part of the job entails offering advise on the do’s and don’ts these fiduciaries must follow to ensure they are properly safeguarding the funds or assets in their charge. Being a fiduciary (Executor, Administrators and agents under a power of attorney are all classified as fiduciaries under the law), is not as easy as it sounds. Lay people often get themselves into legal entanglements because they don’t understand the obligations and requirements from the very beginning, or worse, they simply don’t take the job seriously.
Fiduciaries should understand going in to the situation, that they will be heavily scrutinized by everyone that has an interest in the estate and sometimes by the Court. I call it a thankless job because of that scrutiny. Often we see fiduciaries lose sight of the need to be transparent in their dealings with the Estate assets. They lose sight of the simple fact that the estate assets are not those of the fiduciary; they belong to the deceased and ultimately to the heirs or beneficiaries. The fiduciary cannot treat the assets as their own and do things that they would ordinarily do with their own property. It means fiduciaries must consider the rights of the beneficiaries in the property and do what is in their best interest over their own self interest.
Sometimes that means selling real estate and distributing proceeds when they would rather hang on to the property. Sometimes that means investigating activities or dealings others had with the deceased before they passed. Perhaps the fiduciary will find the deceased was the victim of fraud and abuse. In that case, they have an obligation to do something about it. Even if that means going after another family member (which is often the case).
But no matter what, we often see that Executors or Estate Administrators suffer from suspicion by the heirs or beneficiaries of the Estate. I advise clients that the sooner they can work through the estate, the better. Get out from under the scrutiny. If you need help getting through this situation, we are the team to help you.