An executor’s job is to carry out the deceased’s wishes, not yours. Just because they’re not making the decisions you would have made in their shoes doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing anything wrong. But they don’t have free reign either. If they act improperly by breaching their legal duties as executor, you may be able to challenge their actions.
Executors are “fiduciaries.” This is a legal term and refers to someone in a position of trust toward another person. An executor must act honestly. They have a duty to keep you informed, but they don’t have to consult with you on how you’d like them to handle the estate. An executor also has a duty to:
- protect the estate assets
- follow the instructions in the will
- put the interests of the beneficiaries before their own
- keep estate assets separate from their own
- keep good records and account to the beneficiaries
Some examples of an executor acting improperly might include:
- stealing from the estate, or misusing estate funds
- not following the instructions in the will
- using estate assets or funds for their own benefit
If you think an executor isn’t being honest or is otherwise acting improperly, there are steps you can take. First, try to resolve the problem directly with them or their lawyer. If this doesn’t work, you may want to talk to a lawyer. They can tell you what your options are and whether you have good reason to challenge the executor.
They may suggest some of these approaches:
- Getting in touch with the executor’s lawyer.
- Writing a strongly-worded letter to the executor or their lawyer.
- Trying estate mediation.
- Starting legal action. This could include petitioning to remove the executor or forcing them to give a full accounting of what they’ve done with the estate money. Starting legal action is usually expensive and time-consuming. It’s usually best to try solving the issue in other ways first.
We've got more on the executor's role. We cover whether an executor can use or give away estate property. Or if you feel the executor is taking too long to distribute the estate, we explain what you can do to speed up the distribution.