Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

How can I find out if my gram had a life insurance policy, and if she did and the executor got the money, and didn't pay her debts, such as taxes, and now her properties are going into sheriff sale, can he get into trouble for that for not honoring her wishes.

Asked on 6/08/13, 9:27 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

There is no registry for insurance policies. Usually, the beneficiary is a person and not the estate. My only advice would be that if you know that your grandmother dealt with a particular agent or company for her insurance needs, then she might have a policy. I would check with that person or company as a starting point.

The named beneficiary has no duty to use the funds to pay your grandmother's debts or for the property. The exception would be where your grandmother had a policy made payable to her estate. In such case the executor would be obligated to use that money to pay estate debts and then disperse whatever was left to the heirs under the will. If insurance money was made payable to your grandmother's estate, it would be noted on the inventory of assets. However, why is property being sold at sheriff sale? Do you mean for foreclosure? Or a tax sale? Or execution on a judgment? Why did this happen? Who was to inherit the properties? If the property was sold at a tax sale or foreclosure sale, why was the beneficiary of the property not paying?

What do you mean can "he" (who is that? The executor?) get into trouble for that for not honoring 'her" (I assume your deceased grandmother) wishes?

First, its not even clear if there is an insurance policy or, if there is, that it was made payable to the estate. If it was not an estate asset then there is no problem - even if the money was left to the executor in his individual capacity because a named beneficiary is not obligated to use insurance money to pay for debts of the decedent.

I also don't know what you mean by getting into trouble. An executor has a duty to administer the estate as per the laws and as directed by the will. The executor must first pay the just debts of the estate before the heirs get anything. There is no duty to use funds to satisfy a mortgage (assuming that the properties were mortgaged) or to pay taxes on the property. If there was enough money in the estate then the executor should have turned over those properties to the beneficiaries named in the will or sold the properties. Obviously, if the executor is not doing his job or is misappropriating money, then he can be removed.

If you suspect that the executor is not doing his job properly, then I suggest that you go to the county where the estate is pending and make a copy of the estate file. Take the file to a probate lawyer who practices in the county where the estate is pending. Pay the attorney to review the file and see if any insurance money is listed or made reference to in the estate documents (inventory or accounting). If there is indeed something amiss, then the attorney can seek removal of the executor.

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Answered on 6/10/13, 12:21 am

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