Close Menu
Leigh B. Meineke Law Firm
Follow Us:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
Get In Touch Today! 832-706-0244

What to Do When the Executor Steals From the Estate?

estate executor reviewing a document

When a loved one passes away, the executor of the estate is entrusted with the important task of managing and distributing the assets according to the decedent’s wishes. Typically, the executor is named in the will by the testator (the person who made the will); if not, the court appoints someone to fulfill the role. Either way, you would expect the person serving as executor to take their role seriously and perform it with diligence and fidelity. However, there are unfortunate instances where an executor may breach this trust and steal from the estate. If you are a beneficiary or an interested party in an estate being probated and you suspect that the executor is misappropriating assets, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and the steps you can take to protect the estate. Read below for a discussion of this critical topic. For help with probate matters in Harris County, contact the Leigh B. Meineke Law Firm to share your concerns with an experienced and dedicated Houston estate planning and probate lawyer.

Recognizing the Signs of Executor Misconduct

It is typical for probate to take several months, or even a year or more, to conclude. As a beneficiary during that time, patience is a virtue, and you may not be involved in the probate process or know exactly what is going on. Some red flags that something might be going wrong with the executor’s handling of the estate include:

  1. Unexplained Delays: If the probate process is taking longer than usual without a valid reason, it might indicate that the executor is mishandling the estate.

  2. Lack of Transparency: Executors are required to keep beneficiaries informed. If they are evasive or refuse to provide accounting and inventory records, this could be a red flag.

  3. Discrepancies in Financial Records: Look out for unaccounted withdrawals, unauthorized transactions, or missing assets in the estate’s financial records.

  4. Unusual Changes in Asset Value: Sudden decreases in the value of estate assets without a plausible explanation may suggest misappropriation.

Legal Steps to Take

As an heir or beneficiary to an estate, you have legal rights and the ability to take action if you suspect the executor is stealing from the estate. Some of the options at hand may include:

  1. Request an Accounting: Beneficiaries have the right to request a formal accounting from the executor. This document details all the income, expenses, and distributions of the estate.

  2. Petition for Removal: If there is evidence of wrongdoing, you can petition the probate court to remove the executor. The court may appoint a new executor to manage the estate.

  3. Civil Lawsuit: In cases of significant theft, beneficiaries can file a civil lawsuit against the executor for breach of fiduciary duty, seeking restitution and damages.

  4. Criminal Charges: Theft from an estate can also lead to criminal charges. Beneficiaries can report the matter to law enforcement for investigation and potential prosecution.

Preventive Measures

As a testator, heir or other interested party, while you can’t always prevent an executor from wrongful acts, taking certain steps along the way can help head off any such activity before it happens or deal with it at the earliest opportunity.

  1. Choose Executors Wisely: When drafting a will, it’s crucial to select a trustworthy and responsible executor. Consider appointing a professional executor, such as a law firm or a trust company, if there are concerns about potential conflicts among family members.

  2. Regular Oversight: Encourage transparency and regular reporting from the executor. This can help detect any irregularities early in the probate process and also serve as a deterrent.

  3. Seek Legal Advice: Consulting with a probate attorney can provide valuable guidance on how to monitor the executor’s actions and ensure that the estate is being managed properly.

Contact Leigh B. Meineke Law Firm in Houston for Help With Harris County Probate Matters

Discovering that an executor is stealing from an estate can be a distressing and complex situation. It’s important to act promptly and assert your rights as a beneficiary. At Leigh B. Meineke Law Firm, our experienced estate planning and probate attorney is committed to protecting the interests of our clients in Harris County. If you suspect executor misconduct, call us at 832-706-0244 to explore your legal options and safeguard the legacy of your loved one.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Contact Form Tab