Personal Representatives Must treat you fairly and honestly
Personal representatives, formerly titled Executors or Executrix in the Probate Courts of Massachusetts, owe the Estate of the decedent and beneficiaries of the estate a fiduciary duty. This means that the Personal Representatives of the Estate cannot act out of self-interest to promote their own financial ends; that individual is responsible for loyalty, fairness and honesty to the beneficiaries. If a Personal Representative is refusing to distribute estate property and is using estate property (to which he/she has no legal right to), such as homes, vacation property, motor vehicles, checking and savings accounts; then you may have a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against the Personal Representative. These individuals also owe a duty to disclose the assets, income and expenses of the Estate by way of an accounting. Personal Representatives cannot hide the financial affairs of the estate from the beneficiaries. By concealing financial matters, personal representatives are provided with unfettered access to the estate assets, and can expend estate funds for any purpose they deem fit. Fiduciary duties and estate accountings are necessary check and balance on the power of estate representatives in Probate Court.
personal representatives must efficiently probate the estate
Personal Representatives may pay reasonable expenses of the estate, such as administration fees, attorneys fees and court costs, as well as accountant and appraiser fees. These expenses should be typically allowed by the will. If a Personal Representative is entitled to compensation for his/her services there will be a provision in the will directly on point. However, during the Massachusetts Probate of an estate expenses sometimes get out of hand. Personal representatives may pay themselves as exorbitant amount of compensation if they feel that they are not receiving enough property under the will, or if they subjectively believe that the decedent "owes" them compensation for some other reason. If a Massachusetts personal representative has hired a close relative that is a probate lawyer or accountant, and has charged excessive fees, that may also be an indicator of abuse of the estate. Personal representatives have a duty not to "waste" estate assets, and if you believe that estate assets are being spent down and your inheritance is at risk, please contact us for assistance.
personal representatives cannot probate the estate with the sole purpose of promoting their own interests
If there are multiple beneficiaries of a Massachusetts estate, and the personal representative is also a beneficiary, the personal representative of the estate is still responsible for taking actions in the best interests of the other beneficiaries. A personal representative may not self-deal (or engage in self-dealing transactions) estate property. Estate property must be separated from the personal representatives' individual property. For example, individual bank accounts must be held separately from estate funds and bank accounts. The estate beneficiary cannot reside in a property owed by the estate or decedent on a rent free and maintenance free basis. The estate beneficiary may also not delay the sale of a primary residence or vacation property if he/she is simultaneously using it for personal and family purposes. There are many examples of personal representatives who have abused or misused estate property, and if you suspect that you best interests are not being addressed, please contact us for a free consultation.