What can I do if I don’t like how the executor is managing the estate?

My sister is the executor of my Dad's estate. She’s taken total control of everything and won't speak to me. She even arranged for his cremation without telling me. I’m worried she’s going to make bad decisions. What can I do if she does something I don’t like?

Jonathan

Jonathan

Vancouver, BC

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

Options to take action

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 seek legal advice. (There are options for free advice.) A lawyer 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.

More on the executor's role

For more, see whether an executor can use or give away estate property, and what you can do to speed up the process

Candace Cho

Candace Cho

Onyx Law Group
  • Reviewed in August 2020
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

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