An executor of an estate is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the decedent. Courts give them a lot of leeway to complete the tasks required to guide the estate through probate. While this means they have a lot of power, it does not mean that there no limitations on them.
The court enforces a fiduciary duty on the executor. As fiduciary of the estate they are executing, executors have to act in estate’s best interests all the time. While it is easy to differentiate between an estate’s interests and an executor’s, it can become complicated if the executor is also a beneficiary. In those situations, executors have to decide changes in the estate fairly, and not for their own benefit.
The biggest limitation on an executor is the will itself. An executor should follow the will’s instructions with regards to the estate. If he or she either gives money to someone who it was not bequeathed to or does not distribute the money at all, he or she may be liable in court.
Another example of misconduct is if the executor does not submit the will in probate court. Even if the executor is named in the will, he or she needs formal permission from the court before the estate can be touched. All actions taken, such as expenditures and appraisals, need to be reported.
If the executor uses estate money for his or her personal expenses, this constitutes misconduct. Estate mismanagement, such as selling something for less than what it is worth, can qualify as misconduct.
An executor performs an important role in estate administration. When they abuse the power given to them by the court, the court can remove them if evidence is provided of their incompetence. Those who suspect an estate is being mismanaged should consult an experienced attorney for guidance on how to proceed.