Acting as an executor is an important job. After a person dies, their executor will be performing a variety of legal functions, including selling property, paying creditors, bringing any lawsuits that need to be filed, and, if necessary, reviewing medical records and distributing assets to their named beneficiaries.
When an executor for a will is selected, they agrees to act in the best interest of the estate and to follow through with the decedent’s wishes when it comes to the beneficiaries. Therefore, the person chosen to act as an estate’s executor should be someone trustworthy, responsible and in good financial standing.
Unfortunately, that person may end up not being as honorable as the decedent thought.
Beneficiaries should expect to receive regular updates that document how the executor is handling the estate plan. If they become concerned that the executor is taking money from the will, they need to act quickly in order to preserve their inheritance.
What steps can beneficiaries take if they become concerned that the executor is stealing from the estate in question?
Document Everything You Can
Each state has laws defining the rights of beneficiaries. A beneficiary has the right to notification of probate court actions, to view the original will, and to ask the estate’s executor for information and documentation as it relates to the estate’s assets. This could include value appraisals, asset sales contracts and an inventory of property.
Beneficiaries of an estate must move quickly it they are convinced that the estate’s executor is stealing. State laws set a time limit in which an heir may take action against an estate executor. The longer the beneficiaries wait to act against the executor in question, the less likely they’ll be able to recover stolen funds and/or possessions.
As a beneficiary, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the executor based on your claim to the funds and property held by the estate. Filing a civil lawsuit takes time, but you should be able to appear before the probate court to request an injunction which can limit the damage that the executor can do while your case is being decided. Additionally, you can request that the executor be removed, prohibited from taking any more assets from the estate, and prohibited from using funds that have already been misappropriated.
You can also request that the probate court add restrictions against the account. For example, the court can order the financial institution that is holding the estate’s assets to restrict the account and prohibit the withdrawal of funds without a court order. Another option is to order the executor to place the funds in a restricted account and to provide proof that such action was taken.
For Extreme Cases
In addition to stealing from the estate, other types of executor misconduct include favoring one beneficiary over another, poor asset management and failing to provide a beneficiary with documentation that he or she has a legal right to receive, to name a few.
You can file criminal charges in addition to civil charges against the executor from the estate provided that you have enough proof of a crime taking place. Feel free to contact us for a referral to an experienced probate attorney to help you determine whether you have a case or not.