Many Texans feel helpless after the death of a loved one. While working through your grief, you and many others likely also have questions about what will happen to your family member’s remaining assets. In a best-case scenario, the decedent will have created an estate plan to address such matters. In a worst-case scenario, the executor of the estate will not follow those wishes or will otherwise not complete the probate process correctly.
You may not know a substantial amount about probate proceedings, but your loved one may have made certain wishes known before his or her death — and not just in the estate planning documents. As a result, when the executor does not seem to carry out those wishes, you may have understandable concerns.
An executor could appear to fail in the scope of his or her duty when it comes to settling your loved one’s final affairs. If you believe that something is amiss, you may first want to speak with the executor about your concerns to determine whether he or she has a valid reason for not following specific instructions or for not having completed that part of the process yet. Of course, if an executor acts unscrupulously or rebuffs your concerns for other reasons, you may only become more troubled.
If your worries become serious enough and you cannot gain answers from the executor, you may want to consider taking legal action, including filing a civil lawsuit. The executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate as well as to you and the other beneficiaries, meaning that he or she must act in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries. Failing to follow the terms of the estate planning documents and other actions breach that duty.
Other examples of breaching fiduciary duty
The executor could also breach his or her fiduciary duty by carrying out any of the following actions:
- Paying him- or herself an unreasonable amount of compensation as the executor’s fee
- Making risky investments on behalf of the estate
- Mixing estate funds with his or her personal money
- Using estate funds for personal gain
- Withholding information from the beneficiaries
If you believe that the executor of your loved one’s estate has not upheld his or her fiduciary duty, you may have reason to file a legal claim against that person in efforts to right the situation.