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What should I do if the executor or administrator of an estate will not give me my inheritance?

Although this is not an uncommon problem, neither does it happen with regularity. Executors and administrators are both identified as Personal Representatives in most laws. Personal Representatives have a primary duty to the creditors of an estate to assure that all debts are paid prior to making any distributions from an estate. If the Personal Representative does not assure that creditors have been paid, it may result in the Personal Representative being personally responsible for payments of the debt.

Therefore, if you are an heir or a beneficiary to an estate, be aware that several things must happen before you can receive your inheritance. I will use the term heir throughout the remainder of this paper to describe both heirs and beneficiaries. First, Personal Representative must collect all of the assets of the estate. Second, the Personal Representative must identify all debts of the estate. Third, once the Personal Representative has assured himself that there are sufficient funds to pay all debts of the Estate, the Personal Representative can begin the process of distributing assets to heirs.

If you find yourself in a position where the Personal Representative simply refuses to proceed with the distribution of assets, either personal property or liquid assets, your remedy is to go to the court that appointed the Personal Representative. This is usually the probate court in the County where the deceased person resided. Prior to going to the probate court, you should always send the Personal Representative a letter demanding that the assets be distributed. This letter should be sent using overnight mail so that you have proof that you placed the Personal Representative on notice of your request, and that you gave him ample time to meet your demands.

If the Personal Representative refuses your request, you need to file a petition to settle accounts in the probate court. While this petition may go by other names in your state, you should look for some type of action that discusses the settlement of accounts from the Personal Representative. Once this matter is filed in probate court, the probate court will issue an order requiring the Personal Representative to appear in probate court and explain why he will not distribute the assets of the estate. The probate judge will listen to the Personal Representative’s explanation and either order the Personal Representative to distribute the assets or he will accept the Personal Representative’s explanation for why it is not the appropriate time to distribute the assets. The Court can remove the Personal Representative for failing to distribute the assets of an estate

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