5 red flags that indicate self-dealing by an estate’s executor

On Behalf of | Dec 6, 2023 | Estates

An estate’s executor is entrusted with managing and distributing the deceased’s assets. For the most part, executors – whether they’re family, a friend of the family or a professional – do their jobs pretty well.

What happens, however, if you believe that the executor of your loved one’s estate may be taking advantage of their position? 

Self-dealing can take numerous different forms

It’s very important to make certain that you watch for any “red flags” that indicate an executor is misusing their authority for personal gain, since the consequence to the estate and your inheritance can be costly. Red flags include:

  1. Undisclosed financial transactions: If an executor seems to conveniently forget to disclose certain transfers or sales of estate assets, that may indicate they’re trying to hide a connection between the financial transaction and their own wallet.
  2. Conflicts of interest: Any situation where the executor’s personal objectives or goals might conflict with the best interests of the estate or its beneficiaries should raise immediate concerns.
  3. Preferential treatment: If an executor seems to give one beneficiary preferential treatment when it comes to the estate’s distribution or decisions that need to be made, that may be a sign they’re in collusion.
  4. Excess fees: Executors are generally permitted to receive reasonable compensation for their services. It is a big job. However, some executors will quietly “bleed” an estate dry with inflated fees. If an executor is cagey about their fee structure or hours, it’s time to ask questions. 
  5. No transparency: Executors are supposed to be communicative and open with beneficiaries about the status of an estate or its assets. If they’re non-responsive or evasive when you have questions, that’s particularly troubling. 

Awareness can help you spot indications of self-dealing – but you need to take action once you see them if you want to hold an executor accountable for their actions or seek a change. Seeking early legal guidance can help.