What Can I Do if the Executor of the Estate Doesn't Pay Me as an Heir?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

What Can I Do if the Executor of the Estate Doesn't Pay Me as an Heir?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

If you are an heir and the executor of an estate doesn't pay you, it could be due to the fact that the estate has significant debt, and the executor is required to repay those debts. Should this happen, you likely won't have any other options as repayment of debts will take priority. However, it might also be due to executor mismanagement. If this is the case, then you have many options, which will be explained in detail below.

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Executor's Duties

An executor of an estate is the person named in a will to manage the payment of debts and distribution of assets, among many other tasks. This is not an easy job and it can create additional stress because of the duties required of the executor, which is why many people name someone other than close family and friends as their executor.

The executor has many duties, including:

  • Locating and filing the will
  • Filing other legal documents as part of the probate process
  • Accounting for all estate assets
  • Paying debts
  • Filing and paying final tax returns
  • Distributing assets to heirs

"Distributing assets to heirs" is often the most important step for the heirs of the estate. It's not because you are greedy, but more because you miss your loved one and having items that give you fond memories of them is important in your healing process. It can be frustrating when you realize this is nearly the last step in the probate process. It can take upwards of a year before you receive the items your loved one left to you.

What To Do If The Executor Doesn't Distribute Assets

If your loved one was in a lot of debt before they died, the executor may have liquidated a majority of the estate to pay those debts. As a result, that could mean the executor sold off some or perhaps all of the items you should have otherwise received.

However, an executor who refuses to distribute assets to heirs of the estate is an entirely different story. This scenario involves executor mismanagement. When the executor mismanages the estate, you have options.

You would expect an executor to treat their duties with care and respect. Your loved one trusted the executor to do so. If they fail in those duties, you may need to contact a trusted probate attorney for assistance.

When an executor mismanages the estate by not distributing assets to you as required under the will, you have the following options:

  • File a petition with the court to remove the executor
  • File a petition with the court to see and review a full accounting of the estate's assets
  • Seek to have the executor held in contempt of court
  • File a civil lawsuit against the executor to recover your assets

Regardless of the reason the executor mismanaged the estate, you have options to ensure the final wishes of your loved one are carried out properly. Executor mismanagement is a serious issue and one you should not let go. If you contact an experienced probate attorney, they should be able to help you with the next steps.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.