Skip to Content

We are a Veteran Owned Business, providing 20% discounts for Veterans, First Responders, Elementary and High School teachers. Please contact us to set up a phone or Zoom meeting. Taking care of you and your family, It's What We Do!

Can an Executor Take Everything?

Posted on Tue Nov 3, 2020, on Probate and Estate Administration

From Our “Ask a Question,” Mailbag: “My father died, and my brother is now the Executor. He has changed the locks on the house and emptied all the accounts.  I am worried about what he is doing. Can an executor take everything?”

can an executor take everything?

Probate Lawyer, Peter Klenk

Can an Executor Take Everything?

When a person dies, there is a process to make sure their assets pass to the correct people.  This process is called Probate. In some states, Probate can be difficult, but it is not in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  As part of this process, the Executor files the Will and, in exchange, receives paperwork naming her Executor.  The Executor’s duty is to secure the estate assets. If they fail, the Executor can be personally responsible.

For example, Wayne Wynnwood files his father’s Will and is named Executor. He doesn’t winterize his father’s house, and the pipes freeze, causing damage. Wayne’s siblings have their Estate Litigation Attorney file a claim against Wayne. If the judge finds that he was negligent, Wayne must pay for the damage.

What Are the Executor’s Responsibility to Distribute?

Once appointed by the state, the executor has a fiduciary duty to secure the deceased person’s assets. Further, the executor has the fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries to distribute the assets as the Will directs.  Once taxes and creditors are paid, the Executor must distribute.

For example, Bryn Mawr is the Executor of her mother’s Will. She secured and then sold the house. She also sold all her mother’s stocks. As Executor, she reimbursed herself for estate expenses such as the filing fees and attorney costs. Further, she reimbursed her sister for the funeral that her sister put on her credit card. After receiving confirmation that all taxes were paid, Bryn Mawr had her Probate Attorney draft a settlement agreement for the siblings. Once signed, she promptly divided the funds equally as the Will directed.

What if the Executor Fails to Distribute the Inheritance?

The executor is given broad powers to secure and preserve assets. But, that power is not limitless.

Using the above facts, if Bryn Mawr decided to hold the estate assets, you could force her to distribute.  You could have our Estate Litigation attorneys file a Petition forcing Bryn Mawr to appear.  The executor must satisfactorily justify her actions to the judge.  If she cannot, the judge can order her to make the distributions. 

For more information, follow this link to my article about Breach of Fiduciary Duty.

Can an Executor Withhold Money From a Beneficiary?

I hope you found helpful this short article responding to the question, Can an Executor Take Everything.  I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you are curious about updating your Will, Power of Attorney, or Living Will, contact us. Let our Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. 

Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do!

It’s What We Do!

Tags:

Executor, Probate

Peter KlenkPeter Klenk

What Our clients are saying

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Chantee C.

Peter recently gave a presentation about Wills & Trusts at my employer, and it was fantastic! He was extremely knowledgeable and provided valuable information to the group. People were very engaged and asked several questions, all of which Peter thoroughly answered. Personally, my husband and I have selected Peter to help us with our estate planning, and he has been very helpful in providing us with all of the information we need to provide a secure future for our family. Thank you, Peter!

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Anita R.

Peter came highly recommended by a close friend to do our estate planning. We have been putting off for years. He is knowledgeable, professional and easy to work with.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Qiana Wright

Great friendly staff

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Sharon S.

I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link for a question regarding a will. While I was expecting only a few minutes, it was a lengthy conversation. He made sure he understood the situation by asking many questions before offering advice. He then went through my options and results of each one. He left it up to me to decide if I wanted to proceed and did not push me toward one or another. His website has very useful information which I definitely researched before I called him. While I decided not to proceed at this time, I feel I had enough information to make that decision. I would not hesitate to hire him should I need to in the future.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Andrea Wilson

Peter is excellent. I had a very complicated situation with my parents' estate planning and potential Medicaid needs. Peter was very knowledgeable in estate planning matters, able to define the best solution for the situation. Additionally, he was congenial and able to communicate effectively to my senior citizen parents the benefits of estate planning. He earned my trust, and more importantly, my parents' trust in a 45 mins consultation period. Highly recommend Peter. He is very easy to work with.

Let us put our expertise to work for you.

Free consultation within 24 hours.