Safeguards against executor misconduct in estate administration

On Behalf of | Jul 2, 2024 | Breach Of Fiduciary Duty

Following the passing of a loved one, estate administration can add a layer of stress during a time of mourning and final goodbyes. While the executor who was named in the will is responsible for overseeing this process, the family can never be too careful. After all, what’s stopping the executor from stealing from the deceased’s estate?

Given the substantial authority an executor wields, concerns about potential theft or misappropriation are valid. Thankfully, several legal, procedural and ethical safeguards are in place to help deter such misconduct.

Fiduciary duty

When an executor takes on the role of overseeing estate administration, they assume a fiduciary duty to the deceased’s estate and the named beneficiaries. This means they have a legal and moral obligation to:

  • Act in good faith
  • Be honest and transparent
  • Maintain loyalty to the estate and its beneficiaries

Should the executor breach their fiduciary duty, the family of the deceased have legal recourse, which can include:

  • Pursuing financial penalties upon the executor
  • Removing the executor from their role
  • Filing criminal charges against the executor

The family of the deceased can expect the executor to present a comprehensive list of the deceased’s liabilities and assets. The executor should also update the family as they pay off the estate’s debt. This way, the family can be sure that the remaining assets are correctly distributed among the beneficiaries. 

Probate court supervision

Probate court supervision is another deterrent against executor misconduct. The executor is required to present a comprehensive inventory of the estate’s financial details during probate administration. The court’s scrutiny can help to detect and address any discrepancies or suspicious activities.

While the risk of theft can never be entirely eliminated, the combined effect of fiduciary duty and court oversight significantly reduces the likelihood of such occurrences. By understanding these safeguards, beneficiaries can confidently approach estate administration and take appropriate action if they suspect any wrongdoing. 


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