Can an executor give away personal items to their family members who are not heirs or beneficiaries?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an executor give away personal items to their family members who are not heirs or beneficiaries?

My stepmother is the executor of my father’s estate. She has given her sons most of my father’s clothes, accessories and personal items. She has denied me access to his house.

Asked on June 25, 2019 under Estate Planning, Arkansas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, she may not: an executor has NO power or discretion to do anything other than follow the will, which includes that she may not give anything away to anyone who does not inherit under the will's plain terms.
The only way to rein in an executor not following the will is by a legal action--a lawsuit. You sue the estate and executor both in county court. In the lawsuit, you will be able to get a copy of the will (if you don't get one otherwise) and the court can order the executor to do or not do certain things, to repay the value to the estate of anything improperly taken or given away, or even replace her as executor. Contact the clerk's office of the probate court and explain the executor is giving away state assets; they should be able to direct you to forms and instructions you can use, if you elect to not simply hire an attorney to help.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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