After an individual passes away, the instructions included in his or her will are carried out by an appointed executor. In situations in which there is no valid will, the court appoints a person to manage the estate. Typically, the person chosen is a family member who is only concerned with seeing that the final wishes of the deceased are carried out as requested. However, there are times when the estate’s administrator is unable to manage his or her duties or unwilling to fairly distribute the assets. Being aware of common signs of estate mismanagement helps you and your family avoid problems that occur when an executor is unwilling or unable to manage an estate.

Records are Not Maintained

Managing an estate is complex even when the decedent did not leave much property.  Transactions are documented meticulously for the court and for all beneficiaries. For that reason, failing to maintain records is one of the first signs of estate mismanagement. The executor of the estate should have records of all assets and all transactions that occur under their administration.  When an executor is unable to find records or does not appear to be documenting anything, it is important that all beneficiaries begin asking questions regarding the estate and the transactions that have taken place or been initiated.

No Actions Are Taken

The role of executor is demanding and involves deadlines and court appearances. Failing to attend appearances and missing important deadlines unnecessarily extends the process of asset distribution. If an estate manager is not going to court, stops communicating with other beneficiaries, and no longer seems interested in their duties, it is possible that they are no longer taking care of the estate. Alternatively, a person who attends court may still avoid taking certain actions necessary to maintain the estate such as keeping up with property maintenance. Not taking care of property repairs and basic maintenance can cost all of the heirs by lowering the value of the property from which the decedent intended them to benefit.

Funds are Used for Personal Purchases

The executor of a will is responsible for fulfilling the fiduciary duties of the estate. These duties include paying certain creditors and maintaining the property. At no point should the executor be using money from the estate to pay his or her own personal bills or expenses. Though the executor may be entitled to compensation for duties and may be reimbursed for certain payments made on behalf of the estate (funeral expenses, legal fees, etc.), a court order or other forms of approval are required before funds are dispersed. An executor who is mismanaging an estate may appear to be using money from the estate for daily living expenses, failing to document the transactions, and not discussing transactions with heirs.

Contact an Attorney

If you or a family member suspect that a loved one’s estate is being mismanaged it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. A qualified trust administration attorney is able to spot discrepancies and help your family determine the best way to handle the situation. MMZ LAW understands that any discussion regarding possible estate mismanagement is difficult. We are able to assist you and your family during this stressful period. Contact us at 909-256-6702 to schedule a consultation at our conveniently located Claremont, California office.

Please call (909) 256-6702 to discuss your questions and schedule a free consultation:
Trust and Estate, Elder Law, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration and Probate in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. We offer flat, hourly and contingent fees, based on the type of matter.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Trust and Estate, Elder Law, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration and Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont and assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.