Are criminal charges possible for violating a will? (MA and elsewhere)

Long story short from Reddit: gay man with a lot of assets dies, leaving behind a will leaving substantial amount (more than half, I believe) to partner. Executor of will is little sister who is the only one in the family ever supportive of him and his relationship. She intends to follow the will, but family gives her cold shoulder and pressures her into giving most of what the partner would have gotten to the family, who immediately distributes it amongst all and sundry.

For the purposes of this thread, let’s assume this story is real, because god knows similar things have happened. Is the sister and/or family in danger of any criminal charges in MA, where the drama is taking place? Anywhere at all in the United States? Because gut tells you the answer is yes, but there’s someone there who claims to be a lawyer in MA who insists the answer is no, so I wanted to find out the truth.

(Almost wrote “get it straight” there…)

Not a lawyer but I don’t see how it’s a criminal case unless there’s a violation of criminal statute, like fraud, blackmail, or something else. But that’s probably a lawsuit waiting to happen. That could be litigated for years.

Criminally, it can be embezzlement or larceny against the estate. I don’t know anything about MA’s embezzlement/larceny statute, but stealing from an estate is Serious Business in most jurisdictions. Of course, the rightful heirs also have civil remedies available to them.

After Lying and Embezzling from Her Mother’s Estate, Daughter is Jailed

Simply making a mistake or an error in judgement is not a crime, but knowingly and willfully keeping assets you are entrusted with or giving them to a third party who is not entitled to the assets can constitute the crime of embezzlement.

This is going to vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but almost certainly this is going to be some kind of crime - fraud, embezzlement, larceny by conversion; something of that kind. But I can’t answer for Massachussets specifically.

The OP needs to change “will” and “executor” to “revokable trust” and “successor trustee” … wills go to probate, and even summary probate is going to be looked over by a judge … revokable trusts don’t go through probate, and this is a more likely case for this kind of activity …

If a crime is committed, of course this would be subject to criminal prosecution … otherwise this is a civil case … probate by any other name is still probate …

Not a lawyer, just some of the things me and my brother looked into when our mum passed away … we have a cousin who sues every estate in the family and we wanted to be prepared …

Good grief. Who in their right mind would expect as a nephew or niece that they should get any part of an inheritance? Or even as a grandchild? All the family wills I’ve been involved in, the immediate spouse and children got something and that was that.

The year-plus legal hoops that my nephew had to jump through before distributing my dad’s estate, I cannot imagine anyone getting away with any hanky-panky. He could not even sell the family house until after my stepmother died and title vested 100% in my dad, since there was no power of attorney for her.

Plus, it’s entirely possible that if someone is handling a fairly large estate, or a will written with a lawyer, then there’s a lawyer involved in the distribution of assets. I imagine it to be a career-limiting move for any lawyer to completely disregard a will’s provisions, and if they got any hint that the executor was doing so, would probably be obliged to report it. Other than minor items - “help yourself to the furniture and dishes” - I would imagine misappropriation of the estate could result in criminal charges.