Being the Executor of an estate is a very big responsibility and unfortunately problems and disputes about probate are on the rise. Whether this is due to the increase in the number of probates where the executors are not professionally appointed and instead are either family members or close friends is unclear at the moment. However, this may be a contributing factor.
Problems with executors can usually be classified into four types:
Probate fraud is on the rise today. The problem with suspected fraud is the same as other forms of fraud. By the time it is discovered, it is too late. The assets may have already been transferred or the money already spent. A civil action for fraud should be considered like any other type of civil claim. Estate Administrators should consider the prospects of recovery since it is useless to sue someone if they are incapable of paying the damages that involved.
The problem facing a lot of Estate Administrators is failing to understand how complex the estate will be. Some Wills are very straightforward with the assets being divided among the heirs but some Wills are extremely complex with conditions and requirements that need to be satisfied if the assets are to be transferred to certain people.
Lack of information and paperwork can make the process even more difficult. The Will may also set up a trust which makes things even more complex.
If the executors are not professionals and if they do not understand what legal duties are required of them, the expectations on them are not as high as if they were. A certain amount of leeway can be given to them under the law, but criminal negligence is punishable and an Estate Administrator is at least supposed to demonstrate a little legal know how.
Estate Administrators, if they are especially close to the deceased, can become emotionally embroiled when it comes to executing the estate. In this case they may delay or obstruct the execution of the will. Beneficiaries of the will may pursue legal action against them if they feel things are dragging on.
Emotional embroilment may also render the Estate Administrators unable to do their job well.
Some Wills set up trusts and it is not unusual for the Estate Administrators to be appointed as trustees based on the person making the Will. The will administration process can be hindered by this, creating conflict. So it is important in some cases for the Estate Administrator to be removed as a trustee. This can be done on 3 grounds, either criminal conviction, incapability or unsuitability (if there is a conflict of interest).