An executor is legally responsible to the beneficiaries of the estate for any losses caused by their actions. Beneficiaries or any other person with a legal interest in the estate, such as an unpaid creditor of the deceased, have the right to ask the probate court to demand an accounting from the executor if they suspect they are stealing from the estate. The court will order the executor to provide an inventory list, a full account of what they have done so far, and supporting evidence, such as receipts and cashed checks. If the court finds that the executor is stealing, their authority to act on behalf of the estate is revoked and they no longer have access to the assets. Typically, the court will appoint a new executor or administrator instead.
Beneficiaries should act quickly if they believe that a personal representative is stealing assets. Once the money is gone, it's gone. Yes, you can take the executor to court and possibly even have them charged with theft. But that won't bring back the money. Most allegations of theft of property don't usually escalate to criminal prosecution, but allegations of theft of substantial amounts that can be proven with solid evidence can reach that level.
Beneficiaries can suspect and hire an estate lawyer or report the suspect to the police and hire an estate lawyer to obtain the inheritance they are entitled to. The Surrogacy Court in New York does not oversee the administration of the estate and does not act as its guardian. The problem lies in the fact that the executor is the only person or entity that controls the assets of the estate. If the executor of the estate refuses to make distributions, keeps secrets, or is stealing assets, don't delay. A person with an interest in the estate can request for removal of an executor if there are substantial grounds for doing so. After a person's death, their executor will perform a variety of legal functions, including selling property, paying creditors, filing any claims that need to be filed, and if necessary, reviewing medical records and distributing assets to designated beneficiaries.
The executor withdraws money from the deceased's financial accounts and sells assets and personal assets that are not left to a specific person in the will. Beneficiaries should expect to receive regular updates documenting how the executor is handling probate proceedings. If you truly believe there is some type of executor misconduct, there are ways to handle it. A smart executor would want to avoid transferring assets from the estate to themselves, even if they paid fair and market value. If beneficiaries believe there has been a breach of fiduciary duty on part of the executor, they can be brought to court and even charged with theft. Fortunately, there are things you can do to get executors to act appropriately, although you need to understand what an executor is required to do by law and what actually constitutes misconduct.
These duties include collecting estate assets, paying estate debts, distributing assets according to will or trust, and paying costs associated with managing estate such as attorney's fees and filing fees in court. If court finds that executor improperly took funds from estate, court may order them to reimburse estate for their attorneys' fees.