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(Probate Issues 1 of 5) Will the Probate Court Investigate Improper Actions of the Executor?

Will The Court Look Into It?

When the executor of the estate delays on administration or does things which some of the heirs think is wrong, can the heirs call or write the court to have the court look into it? As a general matter, under Minnesota Law the court usually will not intervene in most probate cases.

Probate Court Is Not An Investigative & Enforcement Arm

For the most part the Probate Court is not an investigative and enforcement arm of the government. In other words, when a loved one has died and there is a probate case under way, the other family members should be proactive and not hope that the probate court will automatically look out for their rights for them.

Think of the probate court as a tribunal that will decide the cases that are presented to the court. The judge will hear from the heirs or their attorneys when disputes arise. The judge will then issue his or her ruling and the probate will proceed.

There Are Some Exceptions

There are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, when there are heirs who are under 18 years of age or when there is one or more beneficiaries who are mentally or physically disabled, the court will often exercise more supervision.

Also particularly in formal probate proceedings, the court may order hearings when the executor is delinquent in providing reports to the court within the time limits.

Furthermore, when the deceased person or that person's spouse has received public assistance during their lifetime, the probate court will often take a more assertive role.

Despite these exceptions, for the most part, the probate court will not provide supervision of the duties of the executor unless the family members bring the particular problems to the attention of the court.

In another part of this series, I talked about the fact that the attorney for the executor is not the lawyer for the family and the estate.

The Take-Away

The take-away that you should get from these articles is that it pays for the family to be proactive. Do not depend on the executor's attorney nor the probate judge to be actively looking out for your best interests.

You should review the inventory, final accounting and other documents and insist that the executor does his or her duties properly and on time. I hope you trust the executor but you should still be vigilant. It brings to mind an old saying that I am fond of: "I trust my brother but I still cut the cards." If you have questions or concerns about the probate or how it is being handled, it is often wise to consult with an experienced probate attorney.

The contents of this article are for information only and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.

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