Question: How do I amend a probate administrator decision? A number of siblings were left off the original filing.
Loraine’s Answer: I think that your post is asking about amending an already filed and granted Petition for Letters of Administration to include heirs who were not listed on the original Petition. If I’m interpreting the question correctly, you really need to hire an attorney to help you with this. Amending a filed document is not a do-it-yourself project because there is no standard form to accomplish this. In addition, you (by which I mean whomever filed the original Petition and got appointed as the Administrator) will have to explain in the amendment why you omitted heirs. If you knew that they existed and if you knew that they were also children of the deceased person, and if you signed and filed the Petition without having it mention that they existed, then you have lied to the court. This not a minor matter. (If you can actually say that you did not know you had half-siblings, or if you actually did not know that they were heirs for some reason, then you will need to be able to explain to the court, in a convincing manner, exactly WHY you did not know that.) The court may take away your Letters of Administration, and you may not get them back unless all of the heirs are still willing to have you serve in that role. If you obtained a waiver of bond and the grant of certain powers under the original Petition, you may also not get those back even if you are reappointed as the Administrator of the estate.
Do not take any additional steps as the administrator of the estate until you get this issue resolved. You will need to hire an experienced probate attorney to help you. Don’t wait.
Key Estate Planning Takeaway: When you submit a document to a court, that document is expected to be accurate and complete. The judge in the matter will make legally binding decisions based on the information you provide, which is why truthfulness is so important. Filing documents that are discovered later to be inaccurate for any reason can have serious legal consequences for the person who filed them. If you are seeking to become the Administrator or Executor of an estate, you must do your best to ensure that all relevant facts are discovered before any paperwork is filed with the probate court.
This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.