Is it a crime to make decisions against someones wishes as executor of their will? 8 Answers as of June 30, 2011

If you are named as the sole executor of one's will, when that person passes and you do things that you think are right and fair, even though they are not what the deceased person wanted, are you committing a crime? And could the other people named in the will sue you or the will?

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Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
The whole idea of leaving a Will behind is to have one's Executor follow the directives in the Will. If others wish to do so, they can sue you for failing to follow the provisions of the Will and ask that you be taken out of the position as Executor. While there are times the Executor is given great latitude in gathering the property of the deceased and then distributing it, the Executor must follow the strict directions found in the Will or they could lose their position and their Exector's fees. Speak to an Estate lawyer. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/30/2011
Majors Law Firm, P.C.
Majors Law Firm, P.C. | M. Jason Majors
Yes. It would likely be considered a crime and the beneficiaries/heirs could potentially have a claim against you and/or the Estate. That said, if all of the potentially interested or affected parties agree to distribute the estate in a manner that is different than the terms of the Will (and the Court approves it), then you may be able to do what may otherwise be right or fair, even if contrary to the terms of the Will.
Answer Applies to: Wyoming
Replied: 6/29/2011
The Coyle Law Office
The Coyle Law Office | T. Andrew Coyle
As the executor, it is your duty to abide by the terms of the will. Any time you wish to deviate from the terms of the will (because of other legal reasons or for any other reason), it is always a good idea to ask the probate judge first. If you do not get court approval, and your actions infringe on the rights of a beneficiary of the estate, that beneficiary can sue you and you would be personally liable for the damages caused to that beneficiary.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 6/29/2011
Burnham & Associates
Burnham & Associates | Stephanie K. Burnham
It is not necessarily a crime, however, it may be a breach of your fiduciary duty. Your position as executor is one of trust and responsibility to follow the will. If all of the Beneficiaries affected consent to the change in writing then you may not be held liable, but you should have this situation reviewed by an Estate Planning Attorney.
Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
Replied: 6/29/2011
The Schreiber Law Firm
The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
You cannot do anything but what the deceased instructed. If you do, you can be replaced and be liable to the heirs for any loss they sustain.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/29/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    Depending on what you do, it could be a crime. And it could get you sued. And as executor you have a duty to follow the will exactly. The only exception might be with written consent of every heir, on the advice of a lawyer, and that is a very narrow one.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/29/2011
    Apple Law Firm PLLC
    Apple Law Firm PLLC | David Goldman
    It would depend on the circumstances. You should have the facts and situation reviewed by an estate planning and or criminal attorney if it necessitates.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/29/2011
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