A will is one of the core estate planning documents — it lets everyone know the last and final wishes of the decedent. The role of the executor is to make sure that those wishes are carried out. The executor is in charge of taking care of the deceased person’s remaining financial and legal obligations.
As a general matter, a properly drafted will leaves specific instructions for what the executor needs to do to settle the estate. Unfortunately, not all executors follow the instructions in the will. If you are a beneficiary of a will and you believe that the executor is not fulfilling their legal duties, you need to take immediate action to protect your rights.
Wills and Executors: A Legal Duty to Follow Directives
As a starting point, you should be aware of the fact that an executor to a will is a fiduciary. As explained by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, a fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care in our legal system. Under Texas law, a will executor has the legal obligation to act in the best interests of the estate’s beneficiaries and to follow the directives contained within the will. If they fail to do so, beneficiaries have legal standing to take them to court.
Take Legal Action: Petition the Court
If you believe that the executor to your loved one’s will is, for whatever reason, not following the directives, you have the right to take legal action. If the will is already in the Texas probate process, then you will need to petition the probate court. However, if the probate proceedings have not yet started, you can petition the court to administer the estate. There are two basic remedies to deal with an executor who is not following the will:
- Require the Executor to Act: Beneficiaries can petition the court to require the executor to take, or refrain from, a specific action. As an example of when this may be appropriate, imagine that an executor is dragging their feet and not finalizing the estate. If they have no valid reason for this delay, the affected beneficiaries have the authority to take them to court. A Texas court could force the executor to take action and to finalize the estate.
- Remove the Executor: You may also be able to force the removal of an executor. In Texas, executors can be removed for a number of different reasons. As a general matter, the beneficiary who is filing to get them removed from overseeing the administration of the will must be able to prove that the executor is not, will not, or cannot fulfill their most basic legal duties. Certainly, this is the more drastic remedy than is trying to force action. However, the removal of an executor may be appropriate in your case — particularly if you believe that the executor is committing fraud, is misappropriating funds, or is otherwise mismanaging the estate.
How Our Texas Probate Litigation Attorneys Can Help
If you are looking for legal help regarding a will executor, our law firm is here to offer actionable assistance. At Weisinger Law Firm, PLLC, our top-rated probate litigation attorneys are compassionate and effective advocates for our clients. We have extensive experience handling the full range of probate issues in San Antonio. Among other things, our attorneys are prepared to:
- Conduct a comprehensive and confidential review of your case;
- Answer your questions about the proceedings;
- Investigate the conduct of the will executor; and
- Take the appropriate legal action to protect your financial interests.
With claims against executors, every case is different. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. In some cases, you may not need to go to court to get the executor to comply with the directives of the will — there may be a more efficient solution available. However, in other cases, aggressive legal action will be necessary to remove a negligent or bad-acting will executor. No matter the circumstances, our legal team will protect your rights and your interests.
Contact Our San Antonio Estate Planning Attorneys Today
At Weisinger Law Firm, PLLC, our dedicated Texas estate planning lawyers have the skills and experience needed to protect your rights. If the executor is not following the will, it is essential that you seek professional legal representation. To get a free, strictly confidential consultation, please contact our legal team right away at (210) 201-2635. We have an office in San Antonio and handle will and probate issues throughout Bexar County.