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Some signs that you may need to contest an executor in court

Handling someone’s estate is a difficult and often thankless job. The executor typically doesn’t get paid, beyond what inheritance was already granted in the will, and he or she will need to deal with a lot of stressors. Most people rise to the occasion and do their best to follow the last wishes of someone they loved who has died. Sometimes, unfortunately, the person who gets left in charge of executing a last will or handling an estate simply isn’t up to the challenge.

There are a number of reasons why you, as a family member or heir, may need to contest how the executor is handling the estate. Inaction is one. Another could be intentional theft or fraud. You may simply have evidence that the executor isn’t capable of fulfilling these critical duties. If you witness any of these keys signs, you may need to prepare for probate court.

What should you look out for?

You want to give the person tasked with this massive chore the benefit of the doubt. The executor, like you, is probably in the midst of grieving a loved one. Delays and mistakes are common and forgivable. However, if you see a pattern of questionable behavior, it may be time to ask the courts to step in and handle the estate.

  • Procrastination or inaction. Taking your time to do something right is wise. Refusing to start because you don’t want to deal with it isn’t. You should allow some time for grief and organization. The executor could work a full time job in addition to these responsibilities. If, after weeks and months, nothing is being done, you should inquire with the executor about an estimated timeline. If one is not forthcoming, you may need to take action.
  • Theft or fraud. People do strange thing when money or other valuable assets are involved. If you have reason to believe that the executor is stealing money or other assets not assigned to that person in the will, you should take immediate action. Likewise, the executor could defraud other heirs, for example, by selling the home at below market value to a friend or family member. Taking action quickly could be the only way to prevent something like this from decreasing the value of the estate.
  • Incapability. Maybe it’s the effects of prolonged grief, or perhaps it’s a pre-existing mental illness. Maybe the executor lives in another city or state and isn’t willing to come to town to handle the responsibilities involved with the estate. If you believe that the person named executor cannot actually handle the job, you can ask the courts to appoint someone else to the position.
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