Estate planning is a sensitive area of the law so accounting contests that arise in the context of estate litigation can be especially unsettling. If you are initiating or defending against an accounting contest in Virginia, contact Randall J. Borden, Attorney at Law for sound advice from an experienced and highly capable estate planning lawyer. 

What Are Accounting Contests?

In estate litigation, accounting contests are legal disputes concerning the financial accounting of a decedent’s estate. Typically, such contests arise during the probate process when the executor (personal representative) designated to administer the estate is required to provide a detailed accounting of the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries. This accounting involves disclosures of income and expenditures as well as liabilities. Its purpose is to ensure transparency and fairness in the management and distribution of the estate.

Only interested parties, such as beneficiaries, those who were beneficiaries on a previous will,  those who would be beneficiaries if the deceased had died intestate, or creditors of the estate are permitted to lodge an accounting contest. An accounting contest may challenge the accuracy, completeness, or honesty of the accounting presented. Disputes can range from allegations of mismanagement or embezzlement to disagreements over asset valuation or the interpretation of the decedent’s intentions as expressed in the will or trust.

Reasons Accounting Contests Arise

Accounting contests occur for several reasons, each of which presents unique challenges and implications for testators, beneficiaries, and trustees. These reasons include:

Allegations of mismanagement or fraud by the personal representative or trustee. Beneficiaries may suspect that assets have gone unreported, been misused, or even embezzled.

Complex or unusual assets, such as business interests, intellectual property, or overseas investments tend to complicate accounting, leading to disputes over valuation and management.

Ambiguous estate plans that are vague or poorly worded can create uncertainty about the decedent’s intentions, leading to disputes among beneficiaries.

Contentious family dynamics often provoke or fuel challenges to the accounting. In too many cases, underlying personal conflicts rather than genuine concerns about financial management, drive disputes.

Lack of transparency on the part of the administrator can be a breeding ground for mistrust, prompting beneficiaries to contest the accounting. This may occur if the executor or trustee fails to communicate effectively or provide timely updates.

Examples of Actions That May Lead to Accounting Contests

Any of the following steps taken thoughtlessly or intentionally by an estate administrator may result in distrust or suspicion that may lead to an accounting contest:

  1. Liquidation of estate assets without prior approval
  2. Deviating from the terms of a will or trust
  3. Misappropriation of assets
  4. Inappropriate handling of assets that lead to diminished value or loss of income, e.g. high-risk investments
  5. Overspending on experts or services for administration of the estate
  6. Failing to sell property when appropriate to pay bills or distribute assets to beneficiaries
  7. Unnecessary prolongation of administrative duties for personal financial gain
  8. Withholding pertinent information about estate finances from beneficiaries 

What Does a Beneficiary Stand to Gain From an Accounting Contest?

If you are a beneficiary looking for justice, Randall Borden will fight to: 

  • Compel an accounting or filing an accounting contest
  • Discover hidden assets of the estate
  • Recover lost income/ regain lost property
  • Remove a dishonest fiduciary
  • Set a firm timetable for administrative activities

How a Strong Attorney Can Help Prevent Accounting Contests 

An important duty of a reliable estate planning lawyer is to help clients avoid contests of any kind. Preventing accounting contests comes naturally to Randall Borden who has a well-earned reputation for lessening the potential risk of disputes by:

  • Drafting meticulous, legally binding documents.
  • Preparing his clients for efficient estate administration, clear recordkeeping, and transparent presentation of accounting reports.
  • Encouraging executors and trustees to communicate regularly and transparently with beneficiaries and to come to them with any serious questions or concerns.  
  • Using professional asset managers, especially for complex estates, to ensure accurate valuation and management, reducing the chances of accounting contests.
  • Including mediation clauses in his estate planning documents to provide the necessary means for diplomatic dispute resolution outside of court should it become necessary.
  • Educating executors and trustees about the nuances of their fiduciary duties and the critical importance of avoiding not only fraud but sloppy recordkeeping or mismanagement. 

These proactive steps instill trust and lessen the possibility of disputes that may lead to litigation with its associated delays and expenses.

The Importance of Skilled Legal Representation in Virginia

When dealing with the complexity inherent in accounting contests, having knowledgeable legal representation is crucial. A proficient attorney can be invaluable both in preventing and resolving such disputes. When you  turn to Randall Borden for legal guidance, he will provide you with excellent client service rooted in:

  • Comprehensive knowledge of estate planning law in Virginia
  • 30 years of experience in estate disputes and litigation
  • Refined negotiation skills, both outside the court and during the trial
  • Diplomatic strength that helps facilitate meaningful discussions even during disputes
  • Understanding your family’s unique dynamics and ability to focus on your particular needs and expectations

Speak to Our Accomplished Fairfax Accounting Contests Attorney Now

When it comes to handling complex estate matters, Randall J. Borden, Attorney at Law is the person to call. Contact him today to experience the reassurance of dealing with a strong legal advocate who is also a trustworthy human being.