When siblings are able to work together to settle their parent’s estate, it may take a little extra time and there may be some negotiating. However, the details are worked out. Sometimes the family bonds become even stronger. There are also ugly stories where families are fractured.
This occurs when the executor acts with some (or a great deal of) self-interest, especially when it’s one of the siblings. One child may feel entitled to more than an equal share, because of the care they’ve given the parent or any of a number of other reasons.
Nj.com’s recent article, “Your rights when family fights over a will,” explains that executors and trustees serve in a fiduciary capacity. It means they have a legal obligation to act for another (the beneficiaries) in a fair, honest, and transparent manner. While executors and trustees have the legal authority to manage the affairs of an estate or trust, they are still accountable to the beneficiaries and must inform them of what they’re doing.
When a person dies, the executor must notify, in writing, all beneficiaries named in the will (and all heirs at law, like those entitled to inherit by intestacy) that a will has been probated. This must be done within a specific number of days of the will being probated. The executor must also provide a copy of the will upon request. After receiving the notice of probate, individuals may contest the will within a specific timeframe.
When the will is reviewed, beneficiaries can see that a testamentary trust was created. Once appointed, an executor must settle and distribute the estate as quickly and efficiently as possible. Both executors and trustees have a duty to collect and preserve assets, deal impartially with beneficiaries and act at all times with the best interests of the estate and trust in mind to be certain that the estate and trust are distributed, according to the decedent's wishes.
A fiduciary also has a duty to account to the beneficiaries. Therefore, in the event a beneficiary has questions about how an estate or trust is being handled, they can request an accounting and copies of supporting documents. Likewise, a trustee is required to keep beneficiaries reasonably informed about the administration of the trust and information necessary for the beneficiaries to protect their interests. The trustee must promptly respond to the beneficiary's request for info on the administration of a trust. If a fiduciary willfully neglects or refuses to render an accounting or breaches their fiduciary duties, you can ask the court to remove them as the executor or trustee.
Estate execution can get messy, and it can be a tough time for everyone in the family. Yet, at Family Estate Planning Law Group we have a solution that help ensure that your estate is executed smoothly and all siblings are working together: The Family Care MeetingTM. This meeting brings together you and your family to discuss how your estate is to be executed and the responsibility of each individual. This is a time to clear up any confusion as well as make sure everyone is on the same page. We established this meeting to bring families together before a death puts emotional strain on interactions.
To learn more about how the Family Care MeetingTM can help keep family ties strong after your passing and other estate planning topics, visit our website today to schedule your consultation!
Reference: nj.com (September 28, 2018) “Your rights when family fights over a will”