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As Texas Probate and Estate Dispute Lawyers, We Represent Clients in Fiduciary and Estate Management Claims
In Texas, personal representatives of an estate have fiduciary obligations to act in good faith and in a prudent manner in the course of administering an estate. This means that they should avoid conflict of interest positions, they should not favor some beneficiaries over others who are similarly situated, and they should take prudent actions to safeguard and administer the estate assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, personal representatives do not always follow the guidelines for proper estate administration. They may also not have the financial expertise to ensure that an estate can be administered effectively. Worse, their own personal situations can negatively influence their estate management decisions.
When probate disputes arise in estate administration, we are available to represent the beneficiaries harmed from mismanagement and other improper actions. While much of our practice concerns cases in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Victoria, and the surrounding towns and counties, our practice extends throughout Texas, as we have represented clients in more than 45 Texas counties.
Probate Disputes and Estate Mismanagement Claims
Probate and estate administration can result in many types of disputes, including:
- Beneficiary Preferential Treatment. Personal representatives cannot act in a manner that favors one or more beneficiaries over others. For example, when beneficiaries are entitled to a share of the same assets, a personal representative usually cannot make a distribution of assets to one set of beneficiaries while making others wait for many months or more.
- Estate Preservation. The personal representative should take due care to preserve the value of the assets, such as paying mortgages, insurance and taxes relating to estate property when it would be prudent to do so.
- Failure to Fulfill Personal Representative Duties. In some cases, the person designated as the personal representative may no longer wish or be able to act in this capacity. In this event, it is appropriate that the personal representative be replaced as soon as possible.
- Disagreement Concerning How to Maximize the Value of an Estate. With large estates, this aspect can be highly contentious. As an example, if a valuable ranch is left by a parent to three children in equal shares, what is the best manner for realizing the value of the ranch? Should the ranch be sold immediately and the proceeds divided equally? Or would it be more prudent to sell the ranch later? Should any oil, gas, or mineral rights be sold separately from the land? What if one or more of the children want to buy the ranch?
- Differing Personal Objectives that Affect Estate Management. The personal representative may have personal financial circumstances or personal opinions that may affect the manner in which an estate is administered. For example, if the personal representative has an immediate need for money because of his or her financial circumstances, the representative may take actions likely to result in a “fire sale” of the assets for a low value, instead of seeking to maximize the value of the estate for all beneficiaries. An executor will sometimes enter into self-dealing transactions with the estate.
- Other Estate Management Issues. In some situations, it may be the case that the personal representative is not well-suited for the administration of an estate or is unable to handle the matters relating to the administration of the estate. If the personal representative does not have the ability necessary to manage a complicated estate, the person’s actions can lead to significant reduction in the ultimate value of the estate that will be left to the estate beneficiaries, even if the personal representative has not intentionally done anything wrong.
If You Are a Beneficiary of an Estate that is Not Being Managed Properly, Please Contact Us
We understand the importance of maximizing the value of your inheritance, and we will fight on your behalf against any wrongful or misguided actions that are taking place.
Please call us so that we can meet with you and learn about your situation. We can explain the laws and your options and how we may be able to help. Our two partners have more than 60 years of experience collectively in representing clients in will contests, inheritance disputes, estate and trust disputes, and similar matters.