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Richard, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 53664
Experience:  29 years of experience practicing law, including tax and estate planning.
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My mother-in-law passed away nearly three years ago. My sister-in-law

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My mother-in-law passed away nearly three years ago. My sister-in-law is executrix of her estate and trying to settle the estate has been contentious. The estate included farm land and several houses and well as stocks and bonds. My sister-in-law wants to finish distribution of the estate on or about August 1. We agreed to take some of our inheritance in land and the rest in stocks. The stocks are being distributed based on their value at the date of death rather than current values. Since most of my husband's share is in the land, the other heirs are looking at big gains that we won't share. Is my sister-in-law acting properly according to estate law?
Welcome! My goal is to do my very best to understand your situation and to provide a full and complete answer for you.

Good evening. No, the executor is not acting properly. The estate and its assets are not your sister's personal piggy bank. Your sister, as executor, has a fiduciary duty to each beneficiary and as such, unless the will specifically designates who gets what assets, the executor does not have the right to wait 3 years and then arbitrarily distribute assets based on date of death values and favor one beneficiary over another based on what assets have appreciated in value. Unless the beneficiaries all agree otherwise, she must either distribute each asset in equal shares or must use date of distribution values. Anything else is breach of fiduciary duty and if the executor were to do so, not only can she be removed but also is liable to the beneficiaries who get short changed for actual and punitive damages against the executor.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Did you get my follow up question?

Thank you so much for checking! I did not! Would you mind re-posting it? I appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX responded that I don't mean to question your expertise, but my sister-in-law is an attorney (though a traffic court judge), and she hired an attorney to handle the estate as well, so I just want to verify that she should be using the stock values at the date of distribution. We've already signed a quit claim for the land that has already been distributed to us and she is asking each heir to sign a document accepting the valuation of the estate at distribution. All hell will break loose if we tell her that the valuation of the stocks should be not at the date of death but at the date of distribution, so I need to be sure. Would this be the point at which we need to get an attorney to look after our interests. The estate is worth between three and four million dollars. Thanks for your help!

Thanks so much for following up. It's not that she has to use the distribution date as the valuation and can't use the date of death, but rather that if she does so, she can't then benefit some beneficiaries at the expense of others by distributing some assets which have appreciated greatly since death to some beneficiaries while at the same time distributing to other beneficiaries those that have not appreciated. If the beneficiaries do not agree, she can use the date of death valuations, but she must distribute each asset to the beneficiaries equally so that the benefit equally from the appreciation subsequent to death. If she balks at this, let her know you plan not only on filing a petition with the probate court judge to address her actions, but also to file a formal ethics complaint with the state bar. If she thinks what she is doing is fair, let the other heirs take the property that hasn't appreciated and see how fair they think it is.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

got it......thanks for your help.....great advice!

You're very's my pleasure to help!
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