Estate question: What happens if the executor ignores the will?

Inspired by a number of recent estate-related topics, I’m wondering this question: Are there any safeguards in the probate system to prevent the executor from unilaterally ignoring the terms of the will, if none of the inheritors complain?

For example, in this thread, the OP states that she doesn’t care about receiving anything from her grandmother’s estate, though it’s implied here and there that she may indeed be entitled to receive something. So let’s assume that, in fact, she was named the sole inheritor of the estate, but her uncle chose to ignore the will and keep everything for himself – if she & the rest of her family never found out, what, if anything, could the probate system do for her?

Another, more hypothetical example – an old lady dies, and her will stipulates that 90% of her multi-million dollar estate is to be donated to the Westboro Baptist Church. The rest of her family strongly disagrees with this choice, so they decide to ignore the will and divvy up the proceeds amongst themselves. If the WBC never learns of this, what could be done about it? Or would they automatically find out?

This question does have some relevance to my personal life, although at the moment, it’s a wait-and-see situation.

Note: fixed typo in thread title.

Since it was “executioner” instead of “executor” I’m sure the rest of the thread would have been nothing but jokes.

General Questions Moderator

D’oh, completely missed that…thanks. :smack:

If the executor commits fraud and some of the beneficiaries are in on it and the one’s that aren’t never discover their fraud…then their fraud goes undetected.

Lot’s of fraud goes undetected.

Are you asking if the court get’s a copy of every will and determines that all wills are executed properly…I would say no.

Could there possibly be a criminal case for embezzlement or some other theft offense? E.g. if Executor knows that he is supposed to give money to WBC but he conveniently fails to notify them that they are even a beneficiary while handing off all the property to his sister, could he have committed an offense that carries real jail time, or would it only be civil (remedy by lawsuit)?

In my state, wills are a matter of public record. The Executor files a copy with the probate court (part of County level govt in my state), the court publishes death notices giving X number of days for claims to be filed against the Estate and then the Executor is responsible for liquidating the Estate, paying bills, etc. Executor then must file detailed reports, under penalty of perjury, explaining all payments and distributions of property. The Probate Court can levy harsh penalties - including jail time for any type of fraud or malfeasance.

But yes, they do not “investigate” all wills. Investigation only occurs when someone files a complaint.

In my case, take them to court. Of course the ex-third-wife was caught trying to steal the estate and after that the judge appointed her executrix. :rolleyes:

So, at no point in the process does the probate court inform Fred Phelps that he’s due to receive a million-dollar inheritance from Aunt McGillicuddy? Interesting.

What happens if the executor never bothers to file with probate in the first place?

(Sorry if these sound like extremely newb-ish questions, I know virtually nothing in this area of law…)

In order to obtain legal right to sell some things, I believe you would have to file. I’m particularly thinking anything that comes with a title or deed bearing the name of the deceased.

The law requires the executor to notify heirs, but it’s the job of the executor. The courts don’t do anything for you.

My wife used to work for a legal firm that did nothing but locate heirs and offer to represent them. So they’d identify a death with a large estate, then run through genealogies. If they found out that some cousin or other relation had a legitimate claim to the estate, they’d offer to represent that person in obtaining their share (for a cut, of course). In some cases, the legal firm was notifying people who would eventually have been notified by the executor but, in other cases, the executor honestly didn’t know the person was a relative with a claim to the estate.

I have been forced to swallow to ‘estate rapes’. One my father where all belongings were preceded by my grandparents and I was the sole child to gain with exception of my father naming a half-sister executrix, as HER father who never gave a dime in support, and by doing so cost ME a less than better life. In the end, he left her $50K…my father knew she had this money and thought to himself, if there be trouble in court, she will be able to get it through probate and to ME.

She agreed to all of this, but they screwed up the will. He didn’t date it, SHE did after he died. The witnesses who sign the will are NEVER to be anyone who might GAIN from the estate and yet the judge allowed the signatures of both HER daughter, my niece, and her Boyfriend, who would later live with her - rent free- for years.

She still lives in the home my grandparents paid for and my father entrusted for her to be the conduit, and only a conduit so that I may receive my only bit of inheritance. She declared through the entire course of probate matters to be nothing but a conduit. We spoke of making her PART of the estate, but it was never made legal. She instead, let probate pass. No notifications as the first thing they unscrupulous people try to get you to sign is a Waiver of Notification. I was told by my Dad’s long time attorney guiding my half-sister, who had no blood or other rights to my property and knew for certain my grandparents NEVER recognized them as part of the family lineage. They had their own and have gained from it AND NOW mine.

She has lived in my house for over 4 years. I got a check one for $5,000. I made her sign the receipt for this money stating it was merely a small portion of a larger amount to be determined.

The courts do not care at all and will often side on whatever decision is least likely to be appealed and more likely to speed the process offering them as little work as possible. Bring up something that would blow the whole thing up, they tend to ignore it as it would mean more work and research of statutes and precedent. They disgust me almost as much as a person I once called sister, sits in my home, sucking any equity out of the home for her children.

It has been years now and I have only one option. I must look to criminal justice system for the errors and downright criminal decisions made by my ex-sister. Fraud, Malfeasance, Forgery, along with the attorney who aided her knowing full and well what my father’s wishes were and even talking to me after Dad died to be sure I wanted the will to go thru as is, and I explained she was a conduit only, had agreed to be a conduit only, etc., to whit, he did nothing more to keep his loyalty to my father and myself.

I believe criminal charges can be filed as long as within time limitations. And it’s probable probate court holds no sway at this point as you are given a specific amount of time to go to the court and state objections. I never did this as during this period of time, I was led to believe all was going as we planned and it was just a matter of time before I was given the money from the sale of the house, or given the house title. So, probate judges will not hear it. And given, these laws vary state by state, probate court and estate law can be some of the nastiest to get tied up in.

Good luck to all and if you are planning estate, make it airtight and prepare for tricks from your best friends and closest loved ones and be sure you get what you want to the people it belongs. Estate planning is Priority #1. Number 2 would be after someone dies, get everything in writing and record it all at least in audio. Every call, conference, etc. And anything you communicate, do so by registered mail and have all docs notarized to prove their content.

I could go on, but it is moot given the state laws in play it is sorely pointed out how impossible it is to be a pro in probate…and if you find a pro----it will cost you and still come out the way the judge wants it to go, regardless of right and wrong.

Sorry i couldn’t be more help. Just offered what advice and examples as I could. First time posting here. Am a poster in other Q&A sites for years.

Trust no one.