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Dealing with inappropriate administration of a will

It is not uncommon for there to be differences of opinion in the administration of a will under New York law. Broad powers have been invested in the executor that is appointed under a will. However, with these powers come serious legal responsibilities. Failure to properly perform the duties may lead to legal action and in some cases personal financial responsibility. The probate court also has the power to remove an executor.

The executor of a will is required by law to maintain thorough records. Executors must carry out the provisions of the will and comply in all other ways with both the law and the last wishes of the deceased. They may not simply seize property for themselves or dispose of it without making a fair valuation and proper record of the sale. Executors must remember that they have fiduciary duties that extend to all of the will's beneficiaries.

There is a natural unwillingness to invoke legal authority against the executor of a will, as in many cases that role is filled by a close member of the family. However, it is best to speak out against improper administration before it is too late and the entire estate has been inappropriately distributed.

It should be noted that even under the best of conditions and with the best intentions, executors sometimes make mistakes. They are not expected to be financial or legal professionals, and in fact they are entitled to seek the advice and counsel of a probate attorney when they need guidance on a particular matter.

Source: Market Watch, "My secretive sister has taken control of our mother's estate", Quentin Fottrell, May 10, 2016

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