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Is an executor stealing from an estate?

| Nov 20, 2020 | Estate Administration & Probate, Executors & Fiduciaries |

An estate executor has the important job of upholding the estate plan. It may be just a simple will, or it may be a complex plan with numerous assets. Either way, it is the executor’s job to adhere to the wishes expressed in those documents.

For instance, the executor may go to the house, gather the physical assets, contact financial institutions, and try to uncover everything named in the will. They can then distribute all these gathered assets to the proper beneficiaries.

The problem of theft

The issue, for some, is that they worry that the executor will use their position to steal from the estate. This is often a concern even among siblings.

Say that the estate plan is rather vague, for example, simply saying that all cash assets remaining in the home should get divided evenly. If the executor pockets half of the money and then under-reports what they found, they’re essentially stealing from everyone else, even though it looks like they’re making correct distributions. Or, if the estate plan names very specific physical assets — such as a painting — what is to stop the executor from stealing those assets and then informing the rest of the family that they couldn’t find them?

Don’t underestimate what people will do in the name of personal gain. They may feel that it is too tempting to pass up the opportunity. They may think they’ll never get caught. They may even rationalize it — saying that they “deserve” the extra money for doing the job of splitting up the estate.

Doing so is illegal, of course. If you think that an executor is stealing or acting unfairly during the probate and administration process, you need to know what legal options you have.

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