Being named as the executor of an estate requires trust. The person who creates an estate plan puts a lot of faith and confidence in this individual to distribute assets within the bounds of the prepared documents and state law.
The unfortunate reality is that people who are put in positions of power don't always use their authority wisely or for its intended purpose. As we discussed in a recently posted article, executors have a fiduciary duty to act responsibly when handling estate matters. Ultimately, missteps in estate administration stand to hurt beneficiaries the most.
Of course, the named executor has a responsibility to the testator -- the person who created the estate. Being placed in such a position should mean something. At the same time, wills are created with the intention of providing for beneficiaries, which is why upholding fiduciary duties is really for the sake of those who are designated to receive property or assets.
Beneficiaries hold the power to take action against an untrustworthy executor. If evidence of malfeasance is provided, it may be possible to have a court remove the executor and name a new person to assume the role.
Of course, it may not be entirely clear to readers what constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty. Some examples of this behavior might include personally pocketing assets from the estate, treating certain beneficiaries unfairly or failure to keep beneficiaries and others informed about the status of the estate.
As we discussed in the most recent blog post, issues of mistrust can infect the integrity of the entire estate administration process. Whether undue influence is exerted before an estate goes through probate or the executor acts inappropriately after the testator's passing, intended beneficiaries can lose out. As such, it's important to understand what recourse is available to accurately uphold a loved one's legacy.