If one believes that an executor is stealing, misappropriating, or otherwise improperly utilizing estate resources, an interested party or beneficiary has numerous channels for recourse. However, as these are strong accusations, one who is accusing the executor should have concrete evidence to substantiate their claim and not rely on pure speculation or conjecture.
If you believe the executor is engaging in self-dealing or otherwise improvidently using estate money or assets, you should certainly retain an experienced estate litigation attorney in New York who can properly represent you and take the necessary legal action to ensure the executor does not get away with such improper behavior.
The Surrogates’ Court Procedure Act (SCPA) creates various mechanisms by which an interest party can petition the Court to take action against an executor or fiduciary who may have misappropriated estate or trust assets.
If the Executor has not already done so, steps should be taken by your attorney to compel the fiduciary to account for the estate assets. That would be the first step in moving against the executor.
If the accounting ultimately establishes numerous inconsistencies, omissions, or irregularities, steps would need to be taken for possible removal of the Executor.
It is important to be mindful that on occasion, omissions in the accounting may be harmless error and may be remedied via the accounting proceeding in the Surrogates’ Court. Quite often, the parties will settle on the proper accounting and the parties will sign a stipulation to that effect, wherein the assets will be properly distributed, and receipts and releases signed absolving the fiduciary of further liability.
However, if it appears during the discovery phase that the Executor has willfully engaged in improper conduct and misappropriated estate assets, steps should be taken by your attorney to seek the removal of the fiduciary, which may include seeking restitution and treble damages for their improper behavior as a fiduciary.