An executor is a person appointed by a probate court to administer a decedent's estate. An executor has a legal duty to gather all estate assets for distribution to a decedent's beneficiaries and heirs. She must always act in good faith and deal expeditiously on behalf of the estate. An executor is obligated to finalize an estate by turning over estate assets to the heirs and giving a final accounting to the court.
Forcing Executors to Finalize Estates
Only parties with legal standing can force an executor to finalize an estate. Individuals with a legal interest in an estate have standing. Examples of interested parties would be beneficiaries and heirs, or conservators or guardians named in a will. An interested person first must come forward to force an executor's hand to finalize an estate.
An interested party can gather information to prove an executor's inefficiency if he believes the estate is being mismanaged. He can request that the executor disclose all the actions taken while handling the estate's business. If the executor refuses to cooperate, he should hire an attorney should to make a formal request for the information. If an estate closes within one year it is usually not considered overdue.
Making a Demand
An interested party can make a written demand to finalize an estate directly to an inefficient executor. Making the demand through an attorney can be stronger and may get a quicker result. The demand should outline proof that the executor is neglecting his role. It may also set a deadline for finalization of the estate to avoid legal action.
Seeking Court Intervention
If an executor refuses to finalize an estate after a written demand, the interested party should contact the probate court and request a hearing to close the estate. This is done by filing a motion along with evidence that the executor neglected his duty to finalize the probate file. The motion and the hearing date must be served on the executor and all other interested parties in the estate. The complaining party and his attorney must attend the hearing to orally argue why the executor should be ordered to finalize the estate. The judge can then issue an order forcing the executor to do so.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.