Lawyers in my Atlanta, Georgia Estate Litigation law firm see cases of dishonest executors and administrators all too often. We have put these dishonest executors into two categories:
1). The Genuinely Accidental Act. If an executor or administrator wants to deceive beneficiaries and heirs, it is relatively easy for these individuals to take advantage of their role. For example, during difficult and emotional times after a loved one’s death, it is possible for administrators and executors to convince the other parties involved that they should sign away certain rights. Even though done unintentionally nor in planning to breach their fiduciary duties, executors and administrators can give the appearance of dishonesty through their lack of knowledge of their duties and responsibilities.
Still, as executors and administrators these individuals owe a fiduciary responsibility to beneficiaries, heirs and other interested parties. Unfortunately, most executors or administrators do not completely understand what their responsibilities are and how much control they have over the probate process. Oftentimes, an administrator or executor is a family member and may have reasons, either financial or emotional, for not being completely thorough during probate proceedings. This creates a situation where it is easy for the administrator or executor to appear as if any wrongful acts were intentional. After all, one duty of an executor or administrator is to know their duties.
2). The Purposeful Wrongful Act. If an executor or administrator wants to deceive heirs, beneficiaries, and interested third parties, it can be relatively easy. When no one is checking executors or administrators actions, these personal representatives can get away with quite of bit of malfeasance. These executors and administrators set out of a course of deception and pilfering from the estate. Moreover, these individual executors and administrator seem to insist they are correct, yet are unwilling to give any information, accounting, or inventory relating to the estate or their fiduciary roles. There are occasions where would be honest executors and administrators turn to the dark side becoming dishonest upon finding out how easy they it may be. Whether this occurs is usually determined by whether these executors or administrators have this deceptive and greedy soul and poor character existing in them. The Atlanta, Georgia estate attorneys at my Firm fear these are the most dangerous executors or administrators. This is because these are the persons or entities who usually get appointed by decedents because they are thought to be honest.
Under Georgia fiduciary law, you do have legal recourse to handle a dishonest executor or administrator who is stealing from, misrepresenting or otherwise defrauding an estate. While it is preferable to take preventative steps to block an unfit individual from being named as executor or administrator, more often it is only after probate is initiated and the executor or administrator begins to handle the estate that a problem is detected. In those cases, you can sue for breach of fiduciary duty. In fact you can sue if the executor or administrator merely threatens breach of fiduciary duty. If you are able to prove your case, the court may impose one or a combination of the following actions:
• Removal of the executor or administrator
• Replacement of the executor or administrator
• Require that the executor or administrator perform the assigned duties
• Require that the executor or administrator pay back stolen money or assets lost due to the breach
• Have the executor or administrator compensate the petitioner for losses
• Placement of wrongfully distributed estate assets into trust until it is decided who should receive the property
• Non-payment or reduced payment of statutory fees to the executor or administrator by the estate
As experienced Georgia probate attorneys, it is our objective at The Libby Law Firm to prevent these types of issues from affecting our clients. But if you do find yourself involved in a probate dispute, we are available to assist with your legal needs. Please contact us at (404) 467-8611 to discuss your situation. Our Main Office is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. We also have a conveniently located Marietta, Georgia Office. You can reach this Office by calling (404) 952-7008. You may also send us a message through our confidential “Contact Us” website form. We serve metro-Atlanta and northern Georgia.