How can heirs find out what has happened to an estate after the probate process has been completed?

Asked almost 4 years ago - Boston, MA

The family's estate consisting of only a house and other small items has been sold through the probate process. The executor , a lawyer family member, as executor has not communicated nor distributed any heir shares after more than 18 months. The executor has seemingly disappeared. How can the heirs get information on what has transpired with the funds and the completion of the process?

Attorney answers (2)

  1. E. Alexandra Golden

    Contributor Level 19

    Answered . If you believe that the executor has disappeared, send a letter via certified mail requesting that he provide you with a copy of the most recent account. You and the other heirs have an absolute right to know what's happened.

    If you don't get a useful response within a meaningful amount of time, go to the courthouse and make a copy of the file, and ask the clerk to print out a copy of the docket sheet. Then see an experienced probate attorney for a review. The attorney may suggest that a complaint for an accounting get filed. This is a request which the court will automatically grant if an account has not been filed after a year since the appointment of the executor. Failure of the executor to respond may lead to a citing for contempt and possible removal.

    Also, keep in mind that since the executor is a lawyer, he can be sanctioned for misconduct by the Board of Bar Overseers. However, I wouldn't go that route before your own attorney has determined whether there is some legitimate excuse for the delay.

  2. David Martin Beliveau

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . I agree with just about all of Attorney Golden's response to your question. I would not consider a disciplinary action (unless it is ultimately determined there has been foul play by the attorney-executor). Instead, I would consider a litigation negligence action (if it is ultimately determined there has been financial harm caused by the attorney-executor). A legatee of a will should receive his/her share of the decedent's estate after the decedent's expenses have been paid. A legatee of a will should receive an accounting showing the financial activity (income, expenses, assets, and liabilities) of the decedent's estate on an annual basis. In the case of a non responsive executor, a legatee as an interested party of the estate can take legal action against such an executor (for example, a litigation negligence action). The legatee can call the respective probate court to explain to a clerk the situation and to find out the status of the estate so the legatee can decide how best to proceed.

    Legal Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on since each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. A lawyer experienced in the subject area and licensed to practice in the jurisdiction should be consulted for legal advice.
    Circular 230 Disclaimer: Any information in this answer may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.

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