Staten Island Defending an Executor
An executor is the person responsible for managing a decedent’s estate upon his (or her) death. Typically, the executor is named in the will. However, in the absence of a will the executor is appointed by the probate court and is referred to as the estate administrator. The executor has a number of duties that he must take care of before an estate can be closed and the assets distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries. The probate court judge oversees the activities of the executor. However, on occasion, disputes develop during the process of winding up an estate. If you were named the executor of an estate or administrator of an estate and are faced with a dispute related to your responsibilities, contact an experienced Staten Island probate lawyer.Responsibilities of Executor
The executor is responsible for all activities related to managing the decedent’s estate, winding up his affairs, and distributing asset to the beneficiaries. Those responsibilities include:
- Inventorying the estate
- Paying creditors
- Settling claims against the estate
- Distributing assets to the beneficiaries
The executor is considered a fiduciary. This means that he is legally bound to perform his duties in an honest manner, for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Failure to do so may result in legal liability.Claims Against Executors
Estate litigation naming an executor as the defendant is also is often related to claims by beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors that the executor failed to carry out his duties properly. However, the executor will be involved in any estate disputes, as the executor is required to defend the estate against claims. Examples of litigation involving executors include:
- Will contest. A will contest is a claim by interested parties such as an heir or beneficiary, that the will does not actually reflect the wishes of the testator. The basis for a will contest can be that the decedent suffered from a lack of testamentary capacity, that he was under undue influence, that fraud was involved, that the decedent was under duress, or that the will was not properly executed. As a Staten Island probate lawyer will explain, if a petitioner makes a claim challenging the validity of the will the executor is required to defend the estate.
- Breach of fiduciary responsibility. Executors are in a position of trust with respect to the estate and the beneficiaries and heirs. They are required by law to conduct their responsibilities with honesty, without self interest, and with the estate and beneficiaries best interests in mind. If an interested party such as a beneficiary or heir has reason to believe that the executor has breached his fiduciary duty, the interested party has the right to file a claim against the executor. Grounds for fiduciary duty claims against the executor include distribution of assets in a manner inconsistent with the will, concealment of assets, and abuse and powers.
- Challenges to executor fees. Under New York law, executors are allowed to charge an estate reasonable fees for performing his duties. If a beneficiary or heir in New York believes that the executor’s fees are exorbitant, he has a right to object to them. Before an executor can be paid he must submit is fees to the court and the court must approve them before they are paid. A probate attorney serving Staten Island can help ensure that an executor’s fees are consistent with the requirements of New York law, an attorney will also skillfully defend an executor against claims of exorbitant fees.
- Challenges to estate accounting. One of the responsibilities of the executor is to submit an accounting of the estate to the probate court. The accounting must include detailed records of all of the activities related to managing the estate. For example, the executor is required to report to the court exactly what assets were in the estate at the time of the decedent’s death, as well as their value, and their location. The executor is required to include details about all money or property left in the estate, as well as any money or property which came into the estate. The executor must also give details about distributions made to beneficiaries. If there are any discrepancies in accounting such as inaccuracies related to distributions or if there is suspicion of fraud, a beneficiary has a right to file an objection to the accounting and a claim against the executor.
The probate attorneys in Staten Island at the Law offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have extensive experience defending executors in complex probation litigation cases. We have the resources to vigorously defend an executor against breach of fiduciary duty claims, claims related to fees and accounting, and any other claims against the executor. If you need an attorney to defend an executor in New York, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We have years of experience representing executors, beneficiaries, heirs, and fiduciaries in a variety of estate matters. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Staten Island, Westchester County, Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Suffolk County, and the Bronx.