5 Signs An Estate Executor May Be Damaging The Estate

As the beneficiary of the estate of a loved one, you rely on the executor to do their job well. But what if they aren't doing that job? What are the signs that the executor may not be up to the task — or even worse, that they may be harming the estate? Here are five indicators to look for and why.

1. Failure to Meet Deadlines. Learn about the standard requirements of the probate court in your state. Is the executor meeting these? In particular, look for failure to meet deadlines, such as when they must produce an inventory or when assets must be distributed to one or more heirs. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens if estate funds are being used improperly. 

2. Lack of Communication. Does the executor reach out to heirs on a regular basis to update them about the estate? Are they proactive about communication? And if you reach out, do they give clear and honest answers, or do you walk away with more questions than answers? Double-speak could be a sign of misappropriation. 

3. Being Annoyed by Questions. Executors who perform the role along with their other normal daily activities can succumb to exasperation at constant questions or demands. But this shouldn't extend to normal questions made through appropriate channels and respectfully. Inappropriate or angry responses to normal inquiries sometimes mask mismanagement or theft. 

4. Simply Being Overwhelmed. As mentioned, executors may need to juggle a lot of plates. Not everyone is up to the job. If you observe them struggling and failing to keep up, have a conversation about voluntarily finding a new executor or hiring professional assistance. If they don't respond, you may need to step in legally to protect the estate from deterioration. 

5. Not Maintaining Estate Value. One of the biggest jobs of an executor is to manage and maintain the estate. Have they acted in ways that reduce its value? A single instance of undervaluing an asset or failing to keep it up can happen, but this should not be the norm. At best, this is the negligence of fiduciary duty. At worst, it could be financial mismanagement. 

Where to Start

Have you noticed any of these signs? If so, start protecting yourself and other heirs by meeting with a probate attorney in your state. They will help you determine the right path to resolving any problems with an executor in ways that help everyone. Make an appointment with a local probate attorney to learn more.