It is an unfortunate fact that the disposition of a decedent’s estate can at times cause hard feelings and deep resentments among members of the family who had been close. Many a Missouri family has been forced to endure the heartbreak and emotional disruption caused when a will is handled irresponsibly and inappropriately, and as the executor is often a sibling or other near relative, there is an understandable reluctance to involve the law. Although there are circumstances where this is sadly unavoidable, there are some intermediate steps that may be taken.
If the loved one died with a will, then the person designated by that document to carry out their last wishes is known as the executor. If the person died intestate, or without a will, then the probate court will appoint an administrator.
No matter the specific title, the person who takes on this role has legally mandated fiduciary duties and responsibilities. They are required to identify all the assets that are part of the estate, determine their value and distribute them either in accordance with the will or with state intestacy law. They are not permitted to claim assets without accounting for them, and they are expected to maintain clear records describing what they have done. If they do not, then they may be removed as the executor or administrator or legally compelled to fulfill their duties.
The task can seem challenging, and in fact it sometimes is. Executors and administrators are not expected to know every aspect of probate law, and they are entitled to seek the representation of an attorney who has experience with these matters when necessary or appropriate.
Source: Market Watch, “My secretive sister has taken control of our mother’s estate”, Quentin Fottrell, May 10, 2016