On its face, estate administration seems rather simple. After all, it is merely the process of handling an estate, ensuring that assets and debts are handled in accordance with estate planning documents and in compliance with the law. Yet, oftentimes disputes arise between estate administrators and beneficiaries. These disagreements can lead to probate litigation.
The primary driving forces behind these disputes is the fiduciary duty. Under the law, estate administrators owe a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries, meaning that they must act in the best interests of the principal they serve, that being the named beneficiaries. This means that the beneficiaries’ needs must be first in foremost in an administrator’s decisions, and they must ensure that there are no conflict of interests.
In far too many instances, the actions of an estate administrator are questionable. They may seem to benefit the administrator or even appear counter to the needs and best interests of the beneficiaries. Of course, this is often a gray area given that administrators who are accused of breaching their fiduciary duty usually claim that they thought that the act in question furthered the beneficiary’s best interests. There are also instances where an administrator is doing his or her best to act on behalf of the beneficiaries, but he or she is simply ineffective.
Regardless of the specific errors made by an estate administrator, beneficiaries who feel like their loved one’s estate is being mishandled should carefully consider whether taking legal action is justified. If it is, then taking the matter to probate court may lead to the removal of the administrator, and in some cases compensation can be recovered.
However, the outcome of a case is wholly dependent on the facts of the case at hand and the legal arguments put forth. For this reason, those dealing with estate administration issues should consider consulting with a legal professional who is experienced in probate and estate administration laws.