Whether the person managing your loved one’s estate is a member of your family or a social acquaintance of your deceased loved one, you expect them to fulfill their duties appropriately and honestly.
Sadly, some people see the role of executor as an opportunity to profit off of someone else’s loss. Executors are often the only ones with direct access to accounts and other valuable assets left behind when someone dies. It’s easy to abuse that access.
While most executors do their best to fulfill the last wishes of the testator, some executors will engage in probate fraud and even outright theft for their own benefit while occupying this position of trust. If you spot either of the warning signs of executor theft below, you may need to take action in probate court.
1) Physical assets or finances simply disappear
Maybe you lived with your parents for the last weeks of their life, so you are acutely aware of what property they had in the home when they died.
Now that the executor has taken control of everything, they claim that they can’t find family heirlooms, jewelry, investment paperwork or other crucial assets. They might also report that the balance of certain accounts is far lower than what you knew it was when your loved one died.
When assets disappear with no explanations or get reported with lower values or worse conditions than you expected, those could be warning signs of estate fraud.
2) The property the executor sells all goes for a pittance
Whether your deceased mother collected Fiestaware that she maintained in pristine condition or your father had a small fleet of restored vintage vehicles, your loved one may have had property worth a substantial amount of money. Real estate, in particular, can hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate value.
The sad truth is that some executors will try to make it look like they couldn’t get a fair price for certain property when they really just sold it to a friend, acquaintance or shell corporation for less than it was worth. They engage in such low-price sales for their own profit. When an executor starts liquidating property inappropriately, you may need to ask the courts to stop them.
There are many ways that an executor could violate the trust inherent in their position and put their own enrichment ahead of their duties to others. If you suspect that the executor of a loved one’s estate has behaved inappropriately, requesting financial documents, keeping records of your concerns and going to the probate courts may all be necessary steps.