The FAQs provide a basic and general overview of hypothetical estate planning, estate administration and probate matters that an individual may face. The circumstances of every estate planning matter and dispute are unique and must be evaluated on an individual basis by a skilled estate planning attorney.
Q: My sibling says that there is nothing in my parents’ estate, but I think that my sibling is hiding assets. Do I have rights?
- A: Yes, but you will likely require help from a legal professional. A knowledgeable estate planning and probate lawyer will advocate on your behalf and take the necessary legal actions to discover and/or compel your sibling to disclose any hidden estate assets.
Q: My sibling was my parents’ power of attorney and handled my parents’ finances while they were alive, but will not share any of the details. I think they may have helped themselves to my parents’ assets. What can I do?
- A: A power of attorney has a fiduciary duty to manage an individual’s finances in good faith. If you believe that your sibling took money from your now-deceased parents, it’s important to obtain assistance from an attorney. Depending on the specific circumstances involved, an estate planning attorney can help you pursue legal action and remedy by filing a lawsuit claiming breach of fiduciary duty or conversion.
Q: My parents had a joint account with my sibling, and now my sibling says the money in the account is his. I know all the money in that account came from my parents. Can I force my sibling to share those funds?
- A: It depends on how the joint account was set up. Many joint accounts include a right of survivorship provision. If this is the case, upon your parents’ death, ownership of any remaining account assets automatically passes to the joint account holder — in this case your brother. What’s more, the right of survivorship provision on a joint account supersedes a will or any other estate planning provisions.
Q: The executor is not giving me any information about the estate. How can I get answers about what assets are in the estate?
- A: As a beneficiary, you have certain rights and can request financial reports and information throughout the estate administration process. If requested, an executor of an estate to which you are a beneficiary must provide detailed financial information including: the total amount of estate assets, the total amount of debt the estate owes, and which assets are being used to pay off any debts.
Q: The executor has not distributed any funds from the estate, and it has been over a year since the death. Can I force the executor to account and pay me my portion of the estate?
- A: There is no predetermined timeframe by which the estate administration process must be completed. Depending on the amount and types of assets involved, some estates take much longer to settle. As a beneficiary, you have the right to the timely disbursement of estate assets. If you believe that an executor has breached his or her fiduciary duty and is not acting in good faith to settle and disburse an estate’s assets in a timely manner, it is a good idea to consult with an estate planning attorney.