What to do if an executor engages in self-dealing when administering an estate?

My mom died 5 years ago and my brother was named executor in her Will. He decided he wants the Trust property, so he has been living there for the past 2 years. He does not pay rent and I have to ask him for money when things get tight, which I have to pay back out of my inheritance whenever he gets around to buying me out. He is offering to buy me out at half the 5 year old appraisal price of $280,000, however I am holding out for half of current market value which is $425,000. Can he be sued for breach of trust since he controls all the money and the property? My family has endured unnecessary financial hardship because he refuses to perform any of the executor duties he is charged with. Is he guilty of criminal charges as well?

Asked on March 3, 2015 under Estate Planning, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, an executor who breaches his fiduciary duty (the duty he owes to the real parties or interest or beneficiaries, like the other heirs) by engaging in self dealing could be removed as executor by the court and also sued for any amounts he has improperly taken. This would be a lawsuit filed by one (or more) of the heirs in surrorgate or chancery court. It is more complicated than filing the typical lawsuit for, say, breach of contract, so you are advised to retain an attorney who handles trusts and estates or probate work to help you.


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