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Can an executor keep estate furnishings & money even though the will has beneficiaries?

Broken Arrow, OK |

My sister is the executor of my dads will. She kicked my brother out of the house he was living in per dads request after he remarried. She has gone as far as dividing up estate furnishing between her and another sibling and excluded my brother and I. She has hired her husband to do contract work at dads estate that is unnecessary to sell the house. She also bought a $45000 Mercedes and she doesnt have that kind of money. We are not sure where she has gotten this money. Does she have the right to not include him in what is happening with the estate? He feels like she will not give him his equal share because they do not get along. Can she do that? Do we/he have any recourse?

Attorney Answers 2


  1. An executor owes a fiduciary duty to the estate. And that means, among other things, that the executor cannot engage in self-dealing that is harmful to the interests of any of the beneficiaries of the estate. Unless there is no pecuniary value to the personal property, the executor cannot decide on her own whether to keep such property.

    The fact that she purchased a $45,000 car may or may not indicate that she has taken from the estate money to which she is not entitled, but it may be enough to warrant your keeping your eyes open.

    It may be necessary and advisable for you to petition for her removal as executor. And it may similarly be helpful to request an accounting in accordance with court rules.

    You should hire counsel, because there are now a series of complex procedures in which you are likely to become involved.

    Good luck to you.

    Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.


  2. I agree with Attorney Haber. But has an estate been opened here or not? If not, then were all of the assets titled jointly with your sister? She is only ACTING as executor if she has been appointed as the executor by the probate court. Otherwise, she is acting in her individual capacity. That is significant because, if the assets were titled jointly in her name and your dad, the terms of the Will do not apply, strictly speaking, and your sister would have no fiduciary duties to you, in that case.

    You can check to see if an estate has been filed, with the probate court in the county where your dad lived at the time of his death.

    If an estate is open and you feel your sister is taking advantage, your recourse is through a petition or objection to the court.

    As far as including or excluding beneficiaries from information as to what is happening, each state has laws dictating what the executor needs to provide to the beneficiaries. Again, this is only if an estate has been opened, however.

    James Frederick

    I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.

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