How can we fight a bad estate administrator?


Q. My sister and I are co-beneficiaries of my grandmother’s estate. The temporary administrator breached his fiduciary duties to marshall assets and estate profits and purposely depleted the estate account. He hasn’t paid the mortgage and now he wants to sell the property willed to me and my sister. I filed a “motion to remove” for breaching fiduciary duties, but the sale and foreclosure date is coming soon. What is the judge’s duty here?
— Frustrated

A. We’re sorry to hear about your grandmother and these troubles with settling her estate.

A temporary administrator is typically appointed by a probate judge for reasons such as the designated executor has died, renounced their rights to serve or are unable to serve, said Shirley Whitenack, an estate planning attorney with Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park.

The order appointing the temporary administrator may set forth the powers, rights and duties of the temporary administrator, Whitenack said.

“The court has the power to remove the temporary administrator if the temporary administrator has failed to perform his or her duties,” she said. “In this case, we don’t have enough facts to know why the mortgage has not been paid and why the temporary administrator seeks to sell the house.”

For example, she said, there may be insufficient liquid assets in the estate to pay the mortgage after the payment of the deceased person’s debts, taxes, fees and commissions.

“If, however, the judge agrees that the temporary administrator has wasted the estate assets the judge can remove the temporary administrator or enter an order directing the administrator to take certain steps to rectify the situation, including the imposition of a `surcharge’ against the administrator,” she said.

Keep following up with the courts so they realize that time is of the essence here.

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This story was originally published Sept 5, 2019. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.