Executors are the lead of the probate process. Nothing can happen in estate disbursement without their signature. When executors step into their role of dispersing an estate, they are stepping into the sensitive territories of family relationships and money. It's a balancing act to keep the family and beneficiaries happy, follow the wishes of the deceased, and keep up with the many aspects of closing an estate.
The executor is the central figure in the probate process. Problems arise with that level of control if the executor has selfish motivations. Because the probate process is largely a financial one, there are plenty of opportunities for an executor to take advantage of power.
Executors are solely in charge of collecting estate assets, liquidating them, paying bills from the estate money, and then distributing inheritance to heirs. They are responsible for presenting documentation at probate court upon the closing of the estate. Sometimes there are grey area expenses, which the executor can cite as "estate expenses" with documents and receipts. Beneficiaries are provided with a copy of these documents at the estate closing and may object to any items they believe to be unnecessary. It is then up to the probate court to decide a fair outcome for each case.
Executors are liable for several types of mismanagement. These areas are usually, according to the website on estate settlement, conflict of interests, failure to properly manage property, mismanagement of accounts, and taking actions without approval. Beneficiaries or coexecutors may bring these issues, with documentation, into probate court to begin legal action against the executor.
Aside from financial decisions, the process of closing the estate rests largely with the executor. The execution of the will may drag on for months or years if the executor does not sign documents and keep up with duties. If the beneficiaries or coexecutors believe the executor is not performing the needed duties, they may take legal action against the executor.
Another issue might arise if several family members are selected as executors of the will instead of just one person. For anything to happen in the probate process, each executor has to agree to the action. When various family members have different feelings about the execution of the will, they may have to take legal action. If there are disputes in the will among the executors, the probate court will have to handle them.
Beneficiaries Wishes Ignored
The executor is technically working for the deceased, and the estate, not for the family or the beneficiaries. It is the executor's responsibility to make choices in the best interest of the estate and decisions that most closely reflect the wishes of the deceased. That decision, however, may not be the choice of some of the family members. If the executor is a lawyer who did not know the deceased well, he or she will only have the will with which to make decisions. Family members, who knew the deceased well, might disagree with the executor's decisions, feeling it wasn't what the deceased would have wanted.