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When a personal representative doesn’t fulfill their duties

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2024 | Estate Administration & Probate |

Serving as the personal representative of an estate is a difficult job. People give up quite a bit of their personal time to attend probate court, communicate with interested parties and manage estate resources. The entire process often requires more than a year of commitment and many hours of time every week.

Families typically feel profound gratitude toward the person who serves as the personal representative of someone’s estate. They appreciate that someone takes on those responsibilities during what is a difficult time for the entire family. They trust that person to do what is right and to follow the instructions provided by the decedent.

Unfortunately, not all personal representatives consistently and competently fulfill their obligations. What happens if the person who has assumed responsibility for estate administration fails in their obligation to the estate?

Families may need to file a lawsuit

Probate litigation is often the only means of resolving issues related to the personal representative of an estate. Whether someone breached their fiduciary duty to the estate by embezzling from it or has been too busy to initiate probate proceedings, their failure can affect all of the beneficiaries.

Delays in estate administration can lead to increased costs in some cases or the devaluation of resources in others. Corruption can substantially reduce the value of an estate. Mismanagement of assets can also prove quite costly.

Families may choose to take action when someone uses their position for personal benefit or doesn’t act at all. A handful of other circumstances, ranging from incarceration to medical incapacitation, could also be the underlying reason that someone does not fulfill their obligations

Typically, removing someone from their position is an option if there is evidence of misconduct or of their actions reducing the overall worth of the estate. If the family can prove to the courts that the personal representative has failed in their duties, then the courts may remove that person from their role and replace them with a better candidate.

While taking legal action is usually the last thing that those already grieving want to do, it is sometimes the best option available to preserve what remains of someone’s legacy. Initiating probate litigation can preserve estate resources and help uphold the true wishes of the decedent. Families concerned about the actions of a personal representative may benefit from learning more about the rules governing estate administration accordingly.