You cannot have it both ways. If you suspect foul play now is the time to step up and be heard. In most estates in most states, receipts, release and refunding agreements (in PA) like the one you are signing is a way to finally resolve all matters of the estate administration with beneficiaries. However, the executor needs to show all transactions of the estate administration to beneficiaries to they can make an informed choice. You need to demand full accountintability and transparancy here. You are owned this much and should not sign any release until you see everything. It sound like you need an estates attorney and if there is any decent amount of money owed you then you are not being wise trying to assess this situation on your own.
You should file your own return as married filing separately. This will alert the IRS to the problem. You should put a memorandum with the return explaining the situation. This will get the attention of the IRS and set you up as an innocent spouse if that becomes relevant down the road. Before doing anything, you may want to go over this situation with a tax attorney in a face to face meeting to get conclusive and detailed advice rather than general advice that this forum provides.
Hope this helps. Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . For further tax advice visit his website at www.sjfpc.com . and blog at >
LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is email@example.com , his website is www.sjfpc.com. and his blog is <http://frommtaxes.wordpress.com/> Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.
Probate attorneys see questions like yours quite frequently. The reality from your position is that the personal representative is in control, and while you certainly have legal rights worth enforcing, those rights could be limited in several ways.
As an example, administrators and executors in Texas are required (either on proper request or by Court Order in some scenarios) to account for their actions. Quite often, beneficiaries of the estate must wait a specified time after the estate is opened by the Court to enforce this right.
Virtually every administrator or executor is well-served to seek a release from each beneficiary as to any liability associated with that beneficiary's interest. They'd be foolish not to. It isn't without merit and it certainly isn't wrong. That does not, however, mean that you must sign a release in order to receive what you're entitled to.
If you refuse to sign a release, and you should if you have not been fully-advised of the representative's actions, you've essentially got two choices. Either wait the representative out or force the issue by requesting that the Court close down the estate and direct the representative to distribute. If you don't want a fight, or if you would rather not involve the Court, then only one of those options is viable.
This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of Texas only, and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to Texas. This answer is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation, and is for promotional purposes only. You should never rely on this answer alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney-client relationship.
You have used the term administrator/executor, so I am presuming that this case involves a will or an estate where there is no will, and not a trust. In California, if it is a will (or an estate without a will) and the value of the estate exceeds $100,000 or has real property greater than $20,000, then the will/estate must be probated. There are certain types of property such as paid on death accounts or life insurance proceeds that are not counted towards these limits. If the estate is in Probate, then the executor/administrator is required to provide an accounting to the court. This accounting must meet certain criteria as set forth in the Probate code (Probate Code § 1061. (a), for example). If the estate is valued at less than the above figures, then the estate can be administered without a formal Probate action. However, even in those cases, the administrator must provide an accounting where he/she has been requested to do so.
If this estate is actually in a trust, then the trustee must provide you with an accounting of trust once any beneficiary requests it (Probate Code § 16062. (a)). In all cases (will, no will, or trust), the administrator/executor/trustee has a fiduciary duty to keep the beneficiaries reasonably informed of the estate’s administration (Probate § 16060 for trusts for example).
In California, it is very unusual for a executor to demand that you sign the type of waiver that your post indicates. Ordinarily, a fiduciary (executor/administrator/trustee) can only be liable for intentional wrongful acts, gross negligence and/or breaches of fiduciary duties. Fiduciaries are not generally liable to the beneficiaries if they have exercised the care that the prudent person would have exercised.
Based on what facts that you have provided, I would recommend that you consult with a California estate or Probate attorney and that you do not sign anything until you do so. As to whether or not you can receive your inheritance without a court action, it is difficult to tell that from your post. If the fiduciary has committed a breach of his/her duties, then a court action may be required.
Disclaimer: The above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. My responses are intended to provide general information about the question posted. I am licensed to practice in the state of California. The information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for conferring with or hiring a competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state.