From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the executor of my father’s estate in Bucks County. My sister and I do not speak, so the process has been terrible. She refuses to sign the family settlement agreement I sent her, and instead has petitioned the Orphans’ Court to make me account. Do I need to respond?
Yes, you must respond to the Petition. As a beneficiary, your sister has every right to ask that you file a formal account with the Court. She does not have to show that you have done anything wrong, only that she is a beneficiary. She may have done you a favor, because it is clear that she was never going to sign your family settlement agreement.
Her refusal could have meant dragging the estate administration on potentially for years. Now you get a court mandated end date. You will need to file an accounting in a specific format, so you are best served by having an experienced probate attorney assist you. These attorney’s fees are paid from estate funds.
As your sister is potentially litigious, it is also advisable that you have a firm that is also experienced in Bucks County Orphans’ Court litigation. Your sister will have the chance to object to your accounting and you will have to address those objections to the court. This is why it is best to have an excellent accounting submitted, which will make you look better to the court. Once the judge has ruled on all the objections, there will be a final order, which would finally release you as executor. Your sister may not have signed the family settlement agreement, but you will now get the same result through a judge.