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I’m the Executor, But How Do I Resolve Family Feuds? 

KSMH Law Group, PLLC Nov. 3, 2022

Imagine you were named in a last will and testament as the personal representative of the grantor of the will, and now that person has passed away. The local probate court has named you the executor of the estate following the wishes of the decedent as expressed in their will.  

Now, you are about to embark on a legal and administrative journey that—if everything transpires without a hitch—will take several months. The last thing you need is for family members to feud over the terms of the will. 

“Why is he getting more than me?” “She doesn’t deserve to be treated differently.” Suddenly warring siblings, or even children from a previous marriage, can make life difficult for you as the executor. How do you resolve these spats and finish the job that the decedent entrusted to you? 

Probate is a hard enough process without heirs and beneficiaries arguing over who gets what and challenging you as the executor for trying to follow the instructions of the last will and testament in distributing assets.  

If you find yourself in this situation as an executor in or around San Antonio, Texas, contact me immediately at KSMH Law Group, PLLC. I am an experienced estate planning and probate attorney who can help resolve disputes that arise and also help you complete the other administrative tasks involved in probate. 

I proudly serve clients throughout Texas, including communities such as Kirby, Live Oak, Leon Valley, and Universal City. 

What Is an Executor’s Role? 

The executor of a decedent’s estate is someone who was named in that person’s will to be their personal representative to fulfill the wishes expressed in the will when the time comes. When this person presents the will and death certificate to the probate court that will oversee the administration of the estate, the court will appoint him or her as the executor to carry out the probate process. 

The probate process is largely involved with ensuring that the decedent’s outstanding debts to creditors and to tax authorities are paid off and that all claims are resolved before the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. The executor will have to oversee all these and other tasks, beginning with notifying beneficiaries and creditors that the will is being administered and the estate being settled. 

Common Estate Disputes 

After the beneficiaries receive notice of the probate process being opened, some of them may have objections to the terms of the will. As noted earlier, siblings can harbor resentments or objections as to how they are being treated in comparison to their brothers and sisters. 

Children from a previous marriage, named or not named in the will, could enter the fray as well. At this point, the executor is going to have to resolve these disputes, or face challenges to the will by one or more beneficiaries. 

One of the most common disputes involves one of the beneficiaries being accused of exerting undue influence on the grantor of the will. This can also be coupled with an allegation that the will was executed at a time when the grantor was not mentally or legally competent. Complicating all this can be the existence of previous wills that, although canceled and superseded, were more favorable to certain heirs. 

Steps to Take to Resolve Family Disputes 

Hopefully, the feuding family members can resolve matters on their own. The executor, however, is going to need to take a hands-on approach and not just let matters simmer until someone does indeed launch a legal challenge. Most executors are probably not trained mediators, nor do they necessarily have a prior background in dealing with probate disputes. At this point, the executor will need to enlist some outside help. 

A trained, professional mediator can be brought to meet with those involved in the dispute to try to forge a consensus on how to move forward. Unless the disgruntled members want to file a legal challenge regarding the validity of the will, they may ultimately agree among themselves on how to split the assets designated in the will to resolve any disparities.  

Other approaches to resolving the dispute, which will have to be initiated by family members, involve bringing in an independent fiduciary to replace the executor, and/or to agree among themselves to liquidate all the assets and split them evenly. However, some disputes involve who gets family heirlooms—treasured photos and other items—and these cannot be reduced to a cash payout.  

If one family member does file a legal challenge against the validity of the will, the court—if it agrees with the challenge—may order the distribution of assets to be done according to Texas’s law of intestate succession. Intestate refers to someone who dies without a will, and intestate succession specifies how the decedent’s estate is to be distributed to remaining heirs.  

Personalized Legal Counsel: KSMH Law Group, PLLC 

If you’ve been named the executor of an estate in or around San Antonio, Texas, and issues arise that you feel untrained or unsuited to deal with, contact me at KSMH Law Group, PLLC immediately. My team and I are ready to help you resolve this issue and move forward with confidence.