Since both the probate attorney and the executor refuse to communicate with me (they both told me to hire a lawyer if I need anything!) and they refuse to distribute my portion of the estate (I'm a beneficiary), how may I get reimbursed for expenses necessary to force distribution? How do I prevent the executor from charging the estate fees associated with fighting my distribution claims? Thank you.
I'll gladly mark all responses as either helpful as well as a best answer. Thank you.
Real Estate Attorney
If the PR and the attorney tell you to hire a lawyer to get paid, that is what you will need to to. An action can be brought under the Trust and Estates Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA). That provides for both mediation and arbitration, and court hearing if the dispute is not resolved in that manner. The court may, but is not required to, award attorneys fees to either party.
If you file a request for special notice in the probate, you will be informed of the closing of the probate, and will have the opportuniy to contest fees paid to the executor or to professionals related to your efforts to compel distribution.
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Estate Planning Attorney
I would recommend speaking with a knowledgeable probate attorney regarding the detailed facts involved this estate. The attorney can help your request Special Notice of Proceedings to help keep you informed of estate happenings, and in addition assist you with bringing any action to compel an accounting or a distribution. If court intervention is necessary, the cost of your attorney's fees can be requested as part of the proceedings pursuant to RCW 11.96A.150, which gives the court considerable latitude in awarding fees and costs and charging it to the estate or other parties involved. Your specific facts will determine whether an award of fees is warranted and whether the estate's fees should be paid by the estate or another party. Good luck to you.
The above response is commentary regarding a general legal question. It is not intended to be legal advice specific to the reader's individual situation nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between the author and any reader. You are encouraged to contact a qualified and knowledgeable attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.
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I think this question is really about something else. And, the question you have may actually be how to determine how much of your own money to put at risk to get more information about what the net assets of the estate are and what your share is and on what timeline should certain acts be occurring. Almost always, you will have to pay counsel at least an initial trust fund deposit to provide representation to you as a beneficiary. The exception to this statement are the larger estates with net assets in excess of several hundred thousand dollars. In these cases, some lawyers may be willing to take your case with the idea that you will most likely have funds available at some point in time to pay their fees. And, in some cases the estate may pay all or part of beneficiaries legal fees. No lawyer can guarantee you that you will be reimbursed for your attorney's fees by the estate even if the lawyer currently representing the estate was disqualified and the current personal representative removed. And, it can be even more difficult, but not impossible, to challenge attorneys fees paid by the estate on the basis of them being unreasonable. I think you probably need to spend the $200 to $300 it will probably cost you to talk to a probate attorney for an hour or so, and discuss this situation more completely, After that conversation, you will have a better idea, based on more of the facts than are available in this type of a forum, as to how to monetize the risk associated by hiring counsel. You should also be advised that timing can be very important in probate and seeking at least some cursory explanation from probate counsel will help you make better decisions as to those issues. It always pays to be well advised and to chose your battles carefully in probate as well as life in general.
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