From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother died a resident of Bucks County and named her sister as her executor. I am the beneficiary of the entire estate. My aunt filed the will last month, but has changed the locks on the house and refuses to answer my calls. She has a history of alcohol abuse and I am worried that she is spending the estate money on herself. Is there any way that I could freeze the accounts and protect my inheritance?
Pennsylvania executors are given a great deal of power to act on their own, without court supervision, and are not obligated to share much information with you on demand. This works well when the executor is honest, as the estate can be managed less expensively. An honest executor will keep the heirs informed of progress because if they do not, the heirs have the right to have an Orphans’ Court judge order them to provide the data.
If the Executor is untrustworthy, this system does not work as well. The beneficiaries must utilize the court to protect themselves. In your case, we can contact the Executor and inform her that we will file a Petition for Accounting with the Orphans’ Court and force her to provide you with the requested information.
Unless you have proof that she is stealing, she is given 4 months to gather together information before the court will normally force her to account, so without more evidence I would suggest that we give her some time, but continue to let her know that we are waiting. If she provides you with satisfactory information then there is not need to file, but if she does not, we would move forward. If the facts are right, we may also ask that she be removed and replaced as executor. Sometimes, the executor just needs to know that you have a competent estate litigation attorney representing you to keep her on the straight and narrow path.
If you have any other questions about executor accountings in Pennsylvania, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.