An executor of an estate is usually named at the time a will is created. The executor can be anybody that the testator chooses to carry out the instructions they’ve left to regarding distribution of their property. Given the importance of this role, the person chosen to serve as executor is usually somebody who already has a trusted relationship with the person creating the will. When a testator passes away, the executor becomes legally responsible for performing the tasks required to close the estate. It might seem like a straightforward process, but serious problems can develop if the executor is incompetent or dishonest.
In one such case of an executor’s misuse, charges were brought against a 43-year-old Adams Township man who unjustly took advantage of his position as the executor of his mother’s estate after she passed away in 2009. In addition to serving as executor, he was a beneficiary of the assets which were to be evenly divided between him and his two siblings. The charges allege that he stole funds totaling more than $300,000 from the estate and deprived his brother and sister of their shares of the benefits the testator’s will intended to be split equally among the three siblings. While the executor’s two siblings each received only $31,000 from the estate, the executor and co-beneficiary transferred $108,000 in estate funds into his own personal bank account. An additional amount was unaccounted for.
When it can be proven that an executor has been mismanaging the estate, a breach of duty has occurred. Under Pennsylvania’s Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries Law, a petition can be filed for the removal of the executor, even if they are also a beneficiary. A serious and intentional breach of duty can be considered grounds for the executor’s removal and also for criminal charges.
Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C. have helped Pennsylvania families determine how well estate executors are performing their duties and whether testators’ intentions are adhered to. To learn how we can help you ensure that a will is managed properly, call 412-301-7395 or contact us online for a confidential consultation.