Under Texas law, estate executors can be held liable for failing to carry out their legal duties.
When a decedent dies with a valid will in the state of Texas, the will must be offered for and admitted to probate in a court of competent jurisdiction in order to create an estate of the decedent. Following the filing of an application offering a decedent’s will for probate with the appropriate court, a hearing on the application is scheduled. During the court hearing, the presiding judge makes a determination of the validity of the will, admits the Decedent’s will to probate, and appoints a personal representative to act on behalf of and administer the newly created estate. The personal representative of an estate may either be an executor or an administrator. Personal representatives are issued either Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration by the court, and these documents serve as evidence of their authority to act on behalf of the estate. Appointment as executor carries with it a considerable amount of responsibility and Texas law imposes a weighty duty on executors of estates.
The executor of an estate is a fiduciary as he or she manages property of the estate for the beneficiaries of the Decedent’s will. A fiduciary relationship is one of great trust and confidence. Consequently, the executor owes fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries when performing his or her responsibilities in carrying out the provisions of the decedent’s will during the probate and estate administration process. Under the law, a As the beneficiaries must trust and rely upon the executor, the law imposes a heavy burden on the executor to perform his or her assigned duties with the utmost good faith, loyalty, fair dealing and integrity. The interests of the beneficiaries should be the executor’s highest priority when carrying out assigned duties.
An executor may face a civil lawsuit if he or she fails to perform his or her fiduciary duties as required by law. For example, if the executor fails to account for estate funds managed by the executor, the beneficiaries may have grounds for a lawsuit against the executor for the breach of fiduciary duty.
Duties of executor
The executor’s role is one of considerable importance. Under the laws of Texas, some of the primary duties of an executor include:
- Locating the beneficiaries named in the will
- Giving notice to creditors of decedent’s death, paying all valid debts
- Identifying, protecting and managing the decedent’s assets
- Preparing and filing tax returns
- Accounting for all assets of the estate and payments made
- Distributing the assets according to the terms of the will and Texas law
If the executor fails to carry out any of the above duties (e.g. hiding or mismanaging assets or unduly delaying distributions to beneficiaries), fiduciary litigation can result.
Speak to an attorney
In many cases, less severe remedies exist to resolve a beneficiary’s dispute with an executor and fiduciary litigation is usually the last resort when an executor does not adequately perform his or her duties. However, in cases where the executor has engaged in fraud or deceit in clear breach of his or her fiduciary duties, litigation is often the best option to protect the interests of the beneficiaries.
If you suspect that you have suffered financially because of an executor’s failure to carry out the duties prescribed by law, contact the experienced probate and fiduciary litigation attorneys at The Biggers Law Firm, P.C. Our attorneys can review your situation and work to hold the executor accountable for his or her actions.