An executor or administrator typically keep records of all income and assets received, investment gains or losses, estate expenses, and distributions made. These records should be available to the beneficiaries (when there is a Will) or distributees (when there is no Will). A beneficiary or distributee can request an accounting (or a reconciliation of all assets and expenses) as early as seven (7) months after Letters Testamentary (when there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (when there is no Will) have issued.
If the fiduciary fails to respond to your request for an accounting, then you can file a Petition for a Compulsory Accounting in court. If the Judge orders an accounting and the beneficiary does not timely account, thereby disobeying a Court Order, you can file a motion to remove the fiduciary and (in a petition for Letters of Administration, d.b.n.) seek the appointment of another person to serve as the successor fiduciary. That successor could then state the account on behalf of the negligent fiduciary.
If your fiduciary does account, then you will be able to review all of the transactions. If you review the accounting and believe the accounting is incorrect or that the losses indicated are due to the administrator’s mismanagement of expenses, then you may be able to take action against the fiduciary, including filing objections to the accounting and seeking a surcharge against the fiduciary for the losses or mismanagement of the estate. Objections constitute the pleadings and set forth the issues that can be heard by the Court. The objections are the issues for the trial.
As with pre-objection discovery to a Will contest, a fiduciary can be examined under oath prior to the filing of objections. The fiduciary can only be examined as to the matters concerning the accounts the fiduciary maintained and the administration of the fiduciary’s estate. In addition to examining the fiduciary, you can also request production of documents to help you ascertain whether to file objections.
After objections to the accounting are filed, the case is usually assigned to a Court Attorney Referee who will conference the case to see if a resolution can be reached. If the resolution cannot be reached, then the parties can agree to a discovery schedule where they request documents from each other and from non-parties so that the necessary proof can be ascertained. After discovery is complete, the parties can determine whether they want to file motions for summary judgment or move to trial.
Contact an attorney if you are considering contesting an Accounting.
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