When someone is given fiduciary responsibility as the executor of an estate, will, or trust, they have a legal obligation to ensure that all wishes are fulfilled and bills and taxes are paid. However, when there is a breach of fiduciary duty, the beneficiaries may wonder, can they sue the executor?
Executors and Fiduciary Duty
The executor of an estate owes certain fiduciary duties to that estate during its administration. In Tennessee, executors occupy a fiduciary position and therefore must deal with the beneficiaries of the estate in the utmost good faith.
The duties of an estate’s personal representative include notifying the decedent’s beneficiaries that the will has been filed for probate, collecting and inventorying the decedent’s assets, resolving the claims submitted by the creditors of the decedent and the estate, making interim distributions of the estate when appropriate, and filing accountings. An executor also has the duty to communicate with the beneficiaries of the estate in a professional manner.
However, when executors do not follow the guidance of the will, trust, etc., beneficiaries may seek legal intervention.
Beneficiaries Can Sue an Executor
In Tennessee, if you are the beneficiary of an estate, will, or trust, and you feel that the executor has not been administering the deceased’s assets properly, you can sue for any property that was due to you, that you have not received.
In addition, the beneficiary and family members can also request the executor be removed for breaching their fiduciary duties. Though it seems fairly smooth, the reality is there is a lot that goes into bringing a lawsuit against an executor.
The beneficiary must show that there was:
A failure to pass accounts
Fraud or misconduct
Endangering the assets, including investments and poor record-keeping
Conflict of interest
Hostility towards beneficiaries
Failure to pay taxes
However, it is important to note that even that is not simple, as there must be evidence of intent. If for example, the executor has fallen on hardship, like caring for an ill loved one, and does not have time to deal with the estate, any wrongdoing may not have been with fraudulent intent.
In those circumstances, the court may just remove that executor and name a new one. However, these disputes can be complicated, which is why it is imperative that you and your family have a trusted estate planning and administration attorney by your side.
Let the Nashville Estate Planning Attorneys of Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard Represent You.
If you are seeking legal advice regarding an estate administration or probate matter, the Nashville attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard may be able to assist you. Our trust and estate lawyers have the experience necessary to litigate a probate claim, and we can also assist with all of your estate planning needs.
Do not let your loved one’s estate fall into the wrong hands. If you are a beneficiary of an estate and are trying to sue the executor, you need help. To make an appointment with one of our dedicated attorneys, call Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard at (615) 800-7096 or contact us online.