Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Sister has skipped out on executor duties

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: Our widowed father died three years ago. He left a moderate estate to his seven children. Our sister "Tracy" was named executor. She sold his condo and accessed various accounts and divided them equally among us. The next step is accessing a brokerage account.

Now Tracy has lost interest in being executor. She refuses offers of help and answers every question with an emphatic, "I don't want to talk about it!"

Tracy insists she has little privacy at work to make the necessary phone calls, even though she is the manager of her office. We have suggested she go in early when others aren't around or take some personal days to work on it, but she refuses.

She has a strong personality and is very effectively stonewalling us. She also tends to procrastinate and be in denial about personal problems, so I think she has developed a mental block.

It's causing resentment and even suspicion. Is it time to stage a confrontational intervention, or will this just cause her to dig further into denial? How else can we handle this? We have always been a close-knit family and our late father would be very upset if he knew this was happening.

-- We DO Want to Talk About It!


Dear Talk: You and your siblings should investigate what steps you might need to take (in your state) to replace your sister as executor. Speak with a lawyer specializing in probate issues for specific counsel and advice.

She managed to sell your father's property and -- according to you, dealt with various accounts and fairly distributed the proceeds. Being an executor is a lot of work; family pressure can make it paralyzing. Your suggestions that she take personal days and go into work early in order to deal with this final issue only emphasize the work and sacrifice you expect her to make, as well as the pressure she may feel to get it done.

If you and your other siblings are on the same page about asking your sister to step down as executor, then yes, you should meet with her, thank her for the hard work she has done so far, and compensate her for the work (if you haven't already) from the estate's proceeds, according to your state's guidelines. You should tell her that this work seems to be too much of a burden, and one of you should offer to replace her. If she refuses, the group should agree on a reasonable deadline for her to deal with the remaining disbursement.

If she refuses, or misses the deadline, you may have to petition the court to have her replaced.


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