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What happens when an executor steals or fails to do the job

Managing someone else’s estate is a time-consuming and complicated task. Many times, it is also a thankless job. Some testators earmark special compensation for the executor of their estate or the trustee managing their trust. Others do not.

Regardless of whether or not an executor receives compensation for the tasks, he or she has a fiduciary duty to the deceased and the beneficiaries of the will or trust.

As an heir to an estate, you have a vested interest in how the executor or trustee performs the job. After all, the money in the trust or the assets from the estate will partially become yours after settling the estate. If you have reason to believe the executor may be stealing or otherwise failing in this important position, you may need to bring a challenge in court .

There are several kinds of theft common in estates

Many people with sizeable estates fail to outline and detail every valuable possession in the estate. They may simply generalize in how they split up assets. For example, one testator could value her jewelry collection at $100,000 and leave all of it to her daughter. However, the executor could easily pocket certain items without anyone discovering it right away. Stealing items of value from an estate is one way an executor can violate his or her fiduciary duty.

It’s also possible for an executor to perform transactions that don’t really benefit the estate. Selling assets or even the home of the deceased are common tasks. However, if the executor knows a real estate agent or a buyer, he or she could sell the home from much under market value to benefit that person (or perhaps to receive a lump-sum fee for the undervalued sale). In this situation, the executor is not acting in the best interests of the estate and the heirs.

Sometimes, executors just can’t perform the duties of the job

Not everyone who does a poor job as executor or trustee is a thief. Some people simply lack the ability to perform the duties of the job. They may live in another city, state or country. The executor could still have a full-time job and children that preclude him or her from devoting adequate time to resolving estate issues. Delays can cost the estate thousands, especially if bills don’t get paid on time.

If you have any reason to believe that the executor or trustee named by a deceased loved one is incapable of doing the necessary job, you may need to challenge the estate or executor in court. Doing so will protect your inheritance and ensure that someone capable of doing all the work ends up named as the new executor by the courts.

Will of widow of DC Comics publisher contested by her son

A New York lawyer and a business manager have been accused of improperly influencing an elderly woman in an attempt to misappropriate a larger portion of her will. As the woman in question was the widow of the famous comic book publisher Jack Liebowitz, the proceedings have been of some public interest. The woman passed away on April 24, 2013.

The woman’s son has filed a suit in New York County Surrogate’s Court alleging a large number of misdeeds by her former associates, including elder abuse and fraud. His suit notes that her will was drafted and re-drafted on 28 occasions in the last 12 years of the woman’s life, and that the size of her bequest to the son shrank steadily with the passage of more and more wills while the amount left to the lawyer and the business manager grew dramatically. Both men now stand to inherit $1 million each from the will, and the widow’s gardener is bequeathed $1.5 million.

The men in question have filed papers with the court that dispute the charges against them. They allege that the woman, who was in failing health, commonly used her will as a tool to compel the people around her. The lawyer states that he prepared all the various drafts of the will in direct response to her current wishes. He also claims that his appointment as the executor of the will and the trustee of the estate, with nearly $1 million in fees paid to him and complete control over $30 million in charitable donations, was proper.

Litigation during the probate process often results when large sums of money are involved. It can be helpful for a potential beneficiary to seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in these matters.

Source: DNAinfo, “Widow of DC Comics Co-Founder Was Conned By Workers, Son Says”, James Fanelli, Jan. 5, 2015