Probate Thoughts: Qualities of Successful Fiduciaries
Lately I have heard this statement, or a similar statement, repeated in reference to the probate of a decedent’s estate: “I am surprised he/she is the one in charge of the estate.” More often than not, time reveals the decedent chose wisely in appointing a personal representative. It got me thinking about the qualities that make for a successful administrator or executor of an estate and the trustee of a trust. Here is my short list of seven qualities:
These are qualities we all have to some degree, and will do well to develop.
What if an administrator, executor or trustee lacks these qualities and is not meeting his/her fiduciary duties? What can the heirs and beneficiaries do? First, have an honest conversation one-on-one with the fiduciary, focusing on your specific feelings and concerns, not on their performance. Then listen. If the fiduciary and you have a glimmer of the qualities listed above, this should be enough to get things back on track. Second, arrange a meeting of all the heirs or beneficiaries with the fiduciary for the purpose of resolving any remaining concerns. Again, listen to what others have to say. Next, if your concerns are not resolved, consult an estate planning and probate attorney to get independent advice. Finally, ask the court to review whether the fiduciary is fulfilling her/his duties, hear your concerns, correct any shortcomings, and if necessary, remove the fiduciary and appoint a new fiduciary.
If you find yourself in a conflict between fiduciary and beneficiary, in either capacity, don’t stuff your feelings. Contact my office to make an appointment to share your concerns, learn your options, weigh the pros and cons of each option, and decide on the option that fits your circumstances best.