Executors to a will may have to handle a wide range of tasks depending on the size and complexity of the estate. From appraising assets and settling debts to selling real estate and distributing property to beneficiaries, probate can be a long and complicated process.
Unfortunately, executors may also run into trouble if heirs or beneficiaries raise concerns about their handling of the estate. These can range from emotionally charged complaints about who receives what to arguments about the legality of the will itself.
When family members do not receive what they expect
Beneficiaries may have misunderstandings about what the deceased intended. They may disagree with the terms of the will or, if there is no will, they may disagree with how the law distributes assets among surviving heirs. Sometimes, beneficiaries believe they are owed more because, for example, they were helping the decedent at the time of death. Often these issues can be resolved informally with information and, most importantly, respect for the person feeling aggrieved. But unfortunately, sometimes these types of disputes lead to litigation.
When beneficiaries agree to change estate distributions
Life can change fast, and the deceased may not have had a chance to update his or her will before their death. If all beneficiaries and heirs agree, the executor may be able to pursue a different estate distribution through the court. Most courts will honor an agreement to alternative distribution from the will or from the rules of intestacy, so long as all parties are in agreement.
When beneficiaries have larger legal concerns
Parentage disputes, accusations of undue influence or forged will and the need to evict persons from the deceased’s home are all examples of larger legal problems an executor may need to handle.
Executors who face conflicts are in a difficult position because on the one hand they must defend the estate and on the other hand, they must treat all beneficiaries equitably — even the beneficiaries who may not be so easy to deal with. In most cases, only an experienced probate attorney can help executors navigate these treacherous waters.