Dallas probate attorney, Elliott Burdette, explains how to protect your rights as a beneficiary. Just because you are not named as the executor of an estate, or trustee of a trust, you still have rights that can be protected and enforced. Listen to Elliott Burdette as he explains different ways an attorney can help look out for your best interest.
Prospective Client: My Mom died recently in Dallas and I live out of state. My sister has been appointed executor. I’m not exactly comfortable with it. I don’t know that she’s done anything wrong, but I’m just not sure what to do at this point, if anything.
Burdette: Well, there’s a few things to do. I assume you are a beneficiary under your Mother’s will?
Prospective Client: Yes.
Burdette: Okay, for several people we do what’s called monitoring an estate. We contact the attorney that your sister is using. We say hello and that we represent you, and that we aren’t expecting there to be any problems with the estate. However, you live out of state and you prefer to have someone locally who can advise you. I ask that they copy me on everything that goes on with the estate so that I can go over it with you. That goes on a lot. It shouldn’t signal any alarms if her attorney gets a call like that.
Prospective Client: Yes, because I don’t want to start any battles.
Burdette: It shouldn’t signal an alarm with the attorney, but I don’t know how your sister or how she would react. Some people prefer an even more remote monitoring of the estate. That’s where we periodically check the courthouse files, go online and view copies of everything, and don’t even let them know we are monitoring it. That’s another option.
Prospective Client: Frankly, it sounds terrible, but I don’t trust her in my gut. Is there something else I should do with that in mind?
Burdette: There are some people that just downright cheat. If they think they can get more dollars, or more than other people in the family, or if there’s a family business with a way to value things and a way to mislead people, some people will do that, unfortunately. Your sister is what’s called a fiduciary. A fiduciary is a person who is an executor of an estate, or trustee of a trust, and they have the highest legal standard in duties that the law gives anybody toward the beneficiaries, which is you. She can be held to the highest standards of conduct. There are ways to make her accountable, but she does have a lot of power. If you have that kind of concern you should watch her closely.
Prospective Client: So I do have rights even though I’m not the executor?
Burdette: Absolutely, you have rights that can be protected and enforced.