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If the Executor Goes Rogue

February 13, 2024 Executors & Personal Representatives

Probate, the legal process of settling a deceased person’s estate, is designed to be a fair and transparent system. However, there may be instances where the executor, also known as the Personal Representative in North Carolina, acts in a way that raises concerns. If you find yourself facing a situation where the executor goes rogue, it’s essential to know your rights. In this article, we will break down the key actions you can take. 

Understanding the Executor’s Role in North Carolina Probate:

Before going into what to do if the executor goes rogue, let’s briefly review probate in North Carolina. Probate is the process of managing a person’s belongings and settling their affairs after they pass away. It involves making sure the person’s will is valid, figuring out what they owned, paying any debts they had, and then distributing what’s left to their family or beneficiaries. The court appoints an executor to manage these tasks and follow the legal steps to close out the deceased person’s estate. Probate aims to be fair and clear, making sure everyone gets what they are supposed to receive. If there are any issues during this process, it’s important to take the right steps to address them.

Identifying When the Executor Goes Rogue:

If you suspect the executor is not acting in the best interests of the estate, it’s crucial to identify when the executor goes rogue. It is important to note when identifying these signs that the goal of probate is to make sure the wishes of the person who passed away are met, and not the wishes of someone else. With that in mind, here are a few common things to look out for:

  1. Lack of Communication: The executor does not keep beneficiaries informed about the probate process, asset distribution, or any significant decisions. This is not always a sign of something to be worried about; this is a challenging time, having just lost a loved one. However, be sure to stay on top of things if it does seem as if there is a lack of communication on important steps in the probate process.
  2. Delay Tactics: If the executor deliberately delays in settling the estate without valid reasons, it could be a cause for concern. None of these are valid reasons for delaying the probate process: procrastination, failure to perform required duties, mismanagement of estate assets causing unnecessary delays, unexplained inactivity from the executor, failure to file legal documents on time, and avoidance of legal responsibilities.
  3. Unauthorized Transactions: Another sign of rogue behavior is suspicious financial transactions or transfers that benefit the executor rather than the estate or its beneficiaries. As mentioned before, the purpose of probate is to follow the wishes of the person who passed away in accordance with the law.
  4. Undervaluing Assets: If you or someone else notice that the executor is supplying inaccurate or undervalued appraisals of assets, potentially to benefit certain beneficiaries or themselves, it could be a sign of something going wrong.
  5. Failure to Pay Debts: If debts are not being paid off appropriately, it might show mismanagement or diversion of funds.

Steps to Take if the Executor Goes Rogue:

If you see any of these signs, it’s important to act promptly. Here are steps you can consider, explained in simple terms:

  1. Gather Information: Begin by collecting all relevant documents related to the probate proceedings. This includes the will, any communications with the executor, and records of asset valuations. It is crucial to have as much documentation as possible.
  2. Seek Legal Advice: Consult with an attorney experienced in probate matters. Legal professionals can provide guidance based on your specific situation and recommend the best course of action.
  3. Mediation: Try to resolve issues through mediation before resorting to legal proceedings. A neutral third party can help ease communication and find common ground. If it is something that is truly accidental, mediation may be the most beneficial route to a solution.
  4. Petition the Court: If mediation fails, or you decide against it, your attorney may recommend filing a petition with the court. This formal legal request will bring the issue to the attention of a judge, who can intervene and make decisions in the best interest of the estate.
  5. Request Removal of the Executor: If the executor’s actions call for it, your attorney may request their removal. The court can appoint a new executor to oversee the probate process and ensure a fair distribution of assets.
  6. Report to Authorities: If you suspect fraudulent activity, such as embezzlement or misappropriation of funds, report it to law enforcement or the district attorney’s office.

Final Thoughts:

Probate proceedings are designed to be transparent and fair, but when an executor appears to be acting against the best interests of the estate, it’s crucial to act. By understanding when the executor goes rogue and following the proper steps, you can work towards a resolution and ensure that the probate process is conducted justly. Remember, seeking legal advice is a critical first step in protecting your rights and the integrity of the probate process. It is understandable that losing a loved one is a challenging time; therefore, being informed and proactive is key to achieving a fair outcome for all parties involved in the probate proceedings.

If you have any further questions about an executor, or would like assistance with probate, contact our law offices today.



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Jeffrey L. Bloomfield Founding Attorney
Jeff is a highly dedicated and accomplished lawyer with a wealth of experience in various areas of law, particularly focusing on tax, estate planning, and estate administration. His expertise and genuine passion for charitable planning make him a sought-after advisor for families looking to structure their initiatives using trusts.

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