In mid-2001, my ninety-six-year-old uncle died in New Jersey. NJ law says estates must close in a year. I’m the 70 percent residual legatee of his large estate, which has not yet been closed by the executor. I’m now eighty-one years old myself.
I live in a Western state, so as the months dragged on, I wrote and telephoned the executor asking him to tell me how things were going. He did not answer even when I sent a registered letter. I then asked a local estate attorney to write. Still there was no answer.
After two years, I hired a lawyer in the executor’s New Jersey county to look into the matter. He reminded me that the executor’s father had been a respected member of the community, but had died a few months before my uncle. His son inherited the practice, including the executorship.
To radically condense the next six years, my lawyer has conducted multiple hearings before two or three local NJ judges, aimed at accounting for the executor’s activities and closing the estate. I have received partial payments. However, the executor failed to pay Federal and State taxes, and regularly missed IRS tax deadlines on the estate. These failures to act have incurred penalties and fines of many thousand dollars. He has also failed to access certain moneys still owed to the estate.
Meanwhile the legal fees have mounted for him and for my attorney. The most recent of the executor’s fees have been denied in court. First the estate was ordered to pay my attorney’s fees, and most recently the executor has been ordered to pay them himself because of the extreme delay and errors he has caused. None of that has been done.
At this point the executor’s accounting is still totally confused and incomplete. He has now asked the court to require me to return half the money I have received, as the estate is in debt to further fines, unpaid bequests, and taxes.
I’m at a loss to know what to do next. All I can hope is that a judge will remove him from the executorship in favor of a competent professional. This would take another year to accomplish.