Vancouver Estate Litigation Lawyers Providing Advice on Problem Executors
Executors are responsible for administering a person’s estate after their death. They are a fiduciary, meaning they owe a duty to act in the best interests of the estate beneficiaries and in accordance with the deceased’s instructions in their Will. As a fiduciary, executors are held to a high legal and ethical standard and can face liability if they fail to meet their duties.
Meridian Law Group provides dependable advice and legal solutions to beneficiaries, executors, or any other party involved in a dispute over executor conduct. Through swift and decisive legal action, the firm’s responsive estate litigators help clients preserve estate assets and assert their interests in a variety of executor-related court proceedings.
An executor is usually named in a deceased person’s Will. An executor’s obligations will vary depending on the complexity of the estate, but their standard duties include:
- Taking an inventory of all of the deceased’s assets and debts;
- Obtaining a valuation of the deceased’s property for sale and distribution with the estate;
- Closing bank accounts and taking control of all assets;
- Filing the deceased’s personal and estate tax returns;
- Paying the estates debts; and
- Reporting to the beneficiaries about the steps taken to administer the estate and obtaining their approval for disbursements and distribution of assets.
Orders for Accounting
At certain times throughout the administration process, executors are required to account to the beneficiaries for all transactions and disbursements of estate assets. Executors must obtain the approval of the beneficiaries or the court for payments made.
When an executor fails to provide a proper accounting, a beneficiary or other interested party may apply to the court for an order compelling an accounting from the executor. This may also be required where a beneficiary refuses to sign off on an executor’s accounting or is unable to consent, as in estates involving minor or mentally incompetent beneficiaries.
Undue Delay in Estate Administration
The amount of time required to wind up an estate can vary, especially when an estate is particularly complex. However, executors are required to keep the process moving as quickly as possible to avoid the devaluation of estate assets and property.
Where a person believes the executor is unreasonably delaying the administration of the estate, they can take action to force the executor to discharge their duties. Where there is reason to believe the executor’s delay has caused or will cause damage to the estate and the beneficiaries’ interests, the court may remove the executor entirely. The executor may also be liable for losses suffered by the estate due to the delay.
Removal of an Executor
In some circumstances, an executor’s conduct may be so problematic that it justifies their removal. The court will consider whether the removal is in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries and must decide if the executor will place the estate at risk if they continue to administer the estate.
Some common grounds for removing an executor include:
- An executor’s refusal to address their undue delay in moving forward with the estate’s administration, to the detriment of the beneficiaries and the value of the estate;
- Fraud, misappropriation, or theft of estate funds; or
- A serious conflict between the executor’s personal interests and the interests of the beneficiaries.
Interpersonal conflict between the executor and beneficiaries is not adequate on its own to justify the removal of an executor.
Claims for Damages for Estate Losses
As a fiduciary, an executor can face liability for breach of their fiduciary duties owed to the beneficiaries of an estate. Beneficiaries can sue an executor to recover financial losses suffered by the estate due to the executor’s conduct. The court can also make various orders to trace the distribution of estate assets and may also freeze accounts to prevent further damage.
Given the high standard to which the courts hold a fiduciary, executors can also face punitive damages – i.e. a monetary judgment that aims to punish the executor for their misconduct.
The Need for Quick Action in Executor Disputes
Executor disputes can be highly contentious and may involve many competing interests. Protracted litigation over an executor’s conduct may substantially delay the winding up of an estate and can deplete the estate’s assets.
An experienced estate litigation lawyer can understand the complex nature of an executor dispute and help beneficiaries or executors quickly identify the best course of action. Where either side’s actions place the estate’s value at risk, it is crucial to act swiftly to ensure assets are protected and beneficiaries’ rights are preserved.
Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Representation in Executor Disputes
Meridian Law Group’s talented estate litigation lawyers develop effective, out-of-the-box legal strategies for clients involved in executor disputes and are a commanding presence in the courtroom. Through strategic and decisive legal action, the firm delivers results for executors and beneficiaries while reducing conflict and cost to the estate whenever possible.
For over three decades, the lawyers of Meridian Law Group have developed a reputation for legal excellence and exceeding client expectations. The firm is located across from the courthouse in downtown Vancouver and represents clients in West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Penticton, Kelowna, Richmond, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced estate litigation lawyer, reach out online or call (604) 687-2277.