How to Stop Estate Executors That Steal Everything

By Rob Jennings J.D.

The executor of an estate is generally a person the deceased named in his will, a person who submits the will to probate and then obtains control of the deceased's affairs by qualifying as his personal representative. The executor has a fiduciary duty — a duty of trust and integrity — to the estate's beneficiaries. While most people try to appoint trustworthy individuals as their executors, the case sometimes arises where a dishonest executor needs to be removed.

Compel an Accounting

If you are an interested party and you suspect an executor of dishonest behavior, you have the option of filing a motion with the probate court to compel an accounting of all property of the estate. If you prevail, the executor will have to show what property of the estate has come under his control and what he has done with it. Forensic accountants or other financial professionals can examine the accounting in an effort to detect mismanagement, neglect or outright stealing.

Motion for Removal

Executors must manage the estate for the benefit of the named beneficiaries under the will. This position requires not only trustworthiness and honest handling of estate property but also prompt and competent handling of that property in order to maximize the value available for beneficiaries. If the court feels that the executor's mishandling of the estate is serious enough, it can order his removal from that position. The court would then have to appoint someone honest enough and capable enough to serve as executor of the estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Civil Action for Damages

In some cases, you may be able to sue the executor personally in civil court for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty or fraud. If you succeed, the executor's personal assets may be available for seizure to help compensate the estate and its beneficiaries for their losses due to the executor's misdeeds. If you become a successor to a misbehaving executor, one of your first duties may be to pursue that individual in order to recover value for the estate.

Executor's Bond

Since the opportunities for theft, self-dealing, mismanagement and neglect are many in the job of executor, state law often requires executors to post a bond at an early stage in the probate proceeding. A bond is a guarantee, generally provided by an insurance company, that there will be funds available to compensate the beneficiaries in the event the executor somehow fails in his duties. The amount of the bond usually depends upon the value of the estate. In some cases, however, the testator — the individual who made the will — may have specified that the executor could serve without giving bond.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What Can Be Done to Force an Executor to Finalize an Estate?
 

References

Related articles

What Can I Do if the Executor of the Estate Doesn't Pay Me as an Heir?

You are due an inheritance, but you have a problem with the way the executor is doing his job. Depending on the estate in question and the laws of the state, the probate process can be quite complex, but there is a structure to the process. Distribution of the assets of the estate to beneficiaries named in the will or to heirs under intestate succession usually come at the end.

Removal of an Executor Due to Hostility Toward Heirs

It’s usually rather difficult to have the executor of a will removed. The decedent nominated him in his will to handle his affairs, and courts tend to feel a moral duty to honor a decedent’s last wishes. However, many individuals name persons who they feel have the practical skills or business savvy to handle such a complex job, and they fail to consider their “people skills.” The chosen executor may be unable to deal with grieving or impatient heirs, or he might have a negative personal history with one of them. In either case, having him removed from office on this basis alone is generally difficult.

What if You Violated an Irrevocable Trust?

The person appointed to oversee an irrevocable trust must act according to the terms of the trust and in the best interest of those who benefit under the trust. While all states recognize this duty, the type of recourse available in cases of breach can vary. Knowing when you may petition the court for removal of a trustee and when he may be personally liable for financial losses will help ensure that your trust operates according to the wishes of its creator.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How to File a Complaint on an Executor's Integrity

The executor of an estate occupies a position of trust; carrying out the testator's last wishes requires not only the ...

An Executor's Duties to a Beneficiary

Executors are individuals who are appointed through a will to ensure the wishes of the testator, person who created the ...

Can I Fire the Executor of My Uncle's Will?

Once the probate court has designated an executor to your uncle’s will, it will not likely remove that person from the ...

How to Find Out if the Executor of an Estate Cashed Insurance Checks

The executor of an estate is accountable to the beneficiaries, heirs and estate creditors for his administration of the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED