(inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

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Weathering
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(inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

Post by Weathering »

Can a group of heirs hire a non-lawyer to represent them to the executor of an estate?
Related question, can a group of heirs hire a lawyer (who is an extended family member) to represent them to the executor of an estate?

Long Background:
My wife and her sisters are in a horrible situation regarding the communication (none, or hostile) by the executor of their father's estate (he passed away in February 2021). The estate was all over the place because of multiple retirement accounts & pensions that were never touched (forgotten) by her father for 30 years. The executor has distributed the single main investment account but nothing else.

Supposedly, all of the assets have been distributed as of last month. However, when searching the unclaimed money state database (and Treasury Direct 'treasure hunt' database) there are several records for my father-in-law. This was communicated (very nicely in an email) to the executor and he nastily replied that the only way my wife's sister would know about missing assets is if she hid them. He refuses to do anything to collect the unclaimed assets.

We don't expect the unclaimed property to be very much (father never mentioned them), so everyone is willing to just let it go. However, yesterday my wife's sister received a letter from a major retirement plan provider. It says that their mother (who predeceased their father) has a retirement plan with them (403b plan). She worked for them throughout the 1980s. They are contacting my wife's sister because they believe she may have an outstanding benefit due from them (a simple calculation of investment growth from 1985 to 2022 indicates these retirement funds could be >$60k, even as high as 8 times that amount). To claim the funds, both their mother's death certificate and father's death certificate will be needed. The heir's circled up last night and the result is they do not expect the executor to be willing to pursue the recovery of these funds. Therefore, they would like to hire a lawyer to assist them with pursuing the claim through the executor. I am suggesting to them that they hire a step-sister (not an heir) who is a finance attorney (stock IPOs, etc) to be their representative. This would be cheaper than an outside attorney, but it also could cause a strong negative reaction from the executor because he is not on speaking terms with this step-sister. The other option being discussed is hiring a brother-in-law (not a lawyer and he is the husband of an heir) that used to get along with the executor (not on speaking term since the father's passing) because it's possible the executor would actually communicate with this individual (after berating him and shouting that he has no business getting involved in the estate).

Any thoughts?
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TnGuy
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Re: (inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

Post by TnGuy »

Hire an outside lawyer who will take the current executor before a judge to have him replaced with an administrator that will act on behalf of the beneficiaries. To do so, you will need to have presentable evidence of the current executor's misbehaviors/mismanagement over time.

My sister is currently in a co-executor position where the other co-executor is coming close to being taken before a judge for mismanagement of the estate.


David
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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: (inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

before you do anything, request in writing or get an email response (less formal) whether OR NOT the executor is going to pursue disbursement of:
1. the unclaimed property of the deceased
2. the recently discovered 401k of the deceased

If he responds in the negative, you should inform him he is not carrying out his financial responsibilities as executor which expects him to "act in the best interest of the beneficiaries."
Determine If You Have a Case

You should first try talking to the executor about your concerns. If that doesn't work, you may have to take legal action.

To have an executor removed from an estate you need to be able to show that they are not living up to their responsibilities of their job or that they are doing something that isn?t legal. The court may remove an executor for the following reasons:

They are no longer eligible because they have been convicted of a felony after being named executor
They are no longer suitable because they have a conflict of interest
They have failed to carry out the wishes of the deceased or they haven't done anything at all
They mismanage the estate by stealing from the estate or wasting assets

The executor must commit a serious infraction for the court to act. Taking a long time to settle the estate is not considered a serious infraction on its own. It must be in addition to one of the examples above. In most cases, you must wait a little longer to get your inheritance.

Seeking Legal Recourse

If you believe that the executor is not living up to their duties, you have two legal options: petition the court or file a civil lawsuit.

Beneficiaries can petition the court to have the executor removed from their positon if they can prove they should be removed for one of the reasons listed above. The court will have a hearing where the parties involved can tell their side of the story. Afterwards, the court can remove the executor and appoint another one if they find just cause.

Your other option is to file a civil lawsuit against the executor if you can prove that you have suffered due to their actions, or lack of actions. For instance, this would be an option if the executor has stolen money or failed to protect the assets of the estate. There is always a chance you will be able to settle before ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

source: https://shererlaw.com/executor-fails-carry-will/
If he fails to take action on the 401k it would likely wind up in unclaimed property as well, but it's not like you get a notice. You'd have to keep checking and it could take years before it gets escheated.
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MP123
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Re: (inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

Post by MP123 »

I think you should get an arms length opinion from a non-related lawyer that works in the estates area.

Hiring other relatives as representatives is likely to backfire, even if they are qualified (and it sounds like they aren't).
Circe
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Re: (inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

Post by Circe »

If the 403b has a beneficiary designated (or a contingent beneficiary after the death of a spouse) and is POD, then it does not go to the estate but directly to the beneficiary. The beneficiary has no obligation to share it with the estate. So that attorney would not have any right or obligation to chase down those funds. If the letter received by your wife's sister is not clear, a phone call to the company may clear things up. And then she should submit the death certificates. The 403b can either be kept with that company or moved to another company like Fidelity or Vanguard or cashed. If she elects to keep it and not cash it, it will be paid out in full over the next 10 years via RMDs.
Last edited by Circe on Fri May 13, 2022 2:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Big Dog
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Re: (inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

Post by Big Dog »

Does the Will/Trust include a clause for replacing the executor by a majority vote of the beneficiaries?

fwiw: just finished executing my dad's will/trust adn I did search the state database for any escheat items. It totaled several thousands. A royal PIA to claim them, but it made no sense to me to leave it all with the State.
carolinaman
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Re: (inheritance issue) Can heirs hire someone to represent them to executor of estate?

Post by carolinaman »

MP123 wrote: Fri May 13, 2022 1:19 pm I think you should get an arms length opinion from a non-related lawyer that works in the estates area.

Hiring other relatives as representatives is likely to backfire, even if they are qualified (and it sounds like they aren't).
+1. I agree. You need an attorney who specializes in estates. The current executor is not doing his job, and through incompetence or other reasons, is not managing the assets in the estate. It sounds as if he/she needs to be replaced.
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