Q: Personal Representative Dishonesty
The personal representative of my father’s estate told me that “there is nothing for me to inherit”. I had no reason to believe otherwise until a year later I found out that I was entitled to half.
Is there anything I can do to regain my inheritance or would the burden have been on me to make sure they were being truthful?
A: If the personal representative was the executor of the estate, that person would be acting under court supervision and the court would ensure that you get everything you’re entitled to before authorizing the final distribution of that estate and discharging the executor from any remaining duties. If the PR was the trustee of a trust, he/she also owed you the same fiduciary duties as an executor but without the need for court supervision which is where problems can arise. In either case, you should have received a copy of the Will or the Trust Under which the PR has been acting and that document should define your rights. If you never received a copy of the Will or Trust, then something’s wrong and you should see an attorney to advise you specifically on your rights. If the PR lied to you or failed to properly perform his/her duties, it’s still not too late to enforce your rights but you will need an attorney. By the way, if the PR was merely nominated to serve as the executor under the Will but the PR never sought to validate that Will through probate, you might also have the right to be the executor and to enforce your claims to the estate as the PR of the estate, ut you’ll need an attorney to advise you.
A: Ask the personal representative for an accounting of the entire estate. Put that request in writing and keep a copy. That starts the ball rolling. However if the personal representative is dishonest, he/she probably won't send you one. But it is good to ask anyway. Is there an open court case? If you know the case number, go to the courthouse and get a copy of the court file. If an accounting has been done and filed with the court, you can find one there. You will be charge 50 cents per page. If you don't know the case number, call the Superior Court and ask for probate indexing. Ask someone to look up the case number based on the name of the person who died. If there is no court case, then you need to open one if there are assets left in the estate. There could be a trust or will involved, or both. Either way, the case would be filed in the probate court. It is strongly recommended that you not file the case on your own. You need to act quickly.
The personal representative has a duty to be truthful to the beneficiaries. The burden is on him/her, not you.
It is possible the personal representative was telling the truth and that there was nothing left after all the expenses of burial, last illness and debts were paid. But you are entitled to an accounting so you can double check.
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