If my stepdaughter is the executor of my late wife’s estate and she has given her boyfriend my wife’s cellphone and may be paying for it from the estate, is that legal?

What can/should I do about it?

Asked on May 3, 2017 under Estate Planning, Vermont

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It is legal only if doing so is in the estate's interest: e.g. if he is doing something useful for the estate (e.g. is he handy? is he fixing a house up? or providing any other service) and giving him the phone helps him do that or is part of what he's being paid for the service. Otherwise, if it's only for his or her benefit, it is illegal: an executor is bound by law (e.g. by the concept of "fiduciary duty") to act in the best interest of the estate, not for her own benefit or the benefit of her significant other. You could bring a legal action in chancery court about this, requiring her, as executor, to "account" for her actions, which suit could result in her having to repay the phone costs and value to the estate, or her being removed as executor. Of course, a lawsuit is stressful and can be expensive: before following this course of action, make sure it is in your (e.g. your emotional) and the estate's (e.g. financially) best interest.


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