‘Is Grandma doing us wrong?’ She’s executor of our mom’s will, lives in her home, and has not given us a breakdown of the estate

Dear Quentin,

My little sister and I inherited a large sum of money and property after my mother’s passing. My grandma lived with my mom and is the executor of the will. The will stated that my grandma could live in the house until she wanted to leave.

My grandma — when distributing our funds — said that she was going to keep some for the property taxes, and has also never given us a breakdown of my mother’s estate. What should we do? Is Grandma doing us wrong?


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Dear Grandson,

Among the many mistakes made by executors, or malfeasance that occurs: misappropriation of funds or losing funds by paying creditors without due consideration, mishandling the sale of a family property, helping themselves to an exorbitant fee for handling the estate, and losing or selling valuable possessions such as jewelry or furniture. 

But even for executors who do their best to follow the rulebook, lack of transparency and communication can make an already stressful situation much worse. Your grandmother owes you those two things most of all. The will is filed with the probate court, the executor is appointed and, once the bills have been paid, the executor then distributes the assets in accordance with the will.

A complete inventory of your mother’s estate should also be provided. “This includes any business interests or real property owned by the decedent individually, any stocks, bonds, bank accounts or brokerage accounts held individually, automobiles, tangible personal property, works of art, furniture, jewelry and collectibles,” according to the New York City Bar.

“The executor must pay all of the decedent’s debts, including unpaid bills, medical expenses, funeral costs, loans and income taxes. Before paying any debts, the Executor must determine what the total debts are, in order to ensure that the estate has sufficient money to pay them all,” the organization adds. He or she is not under any obligation to seek out creditors.

Unless otherwise stated in the will, and in accordance with whatever state your grandmother lives in, she — as the life tenant — is responsible for the real-estate taxes, HOA fees, insurance and maintenance of the home. She also has a duty of care not to allow the home to fall into disrepair. You should consult your mother’s will, an attorney and your grandma, in that order.

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