How is he getting away with that?
This problem exists because not only do most executors not know what they heck they are doing, but most beneficiaries don't know what the executor is supposed to do either. A dishonest executor soon learns that he can get away with almost anything he wants because nobody is watching.
There isn't any government, public or police department supervising executors. It's up to the residuary beneficiaries to monitor and enforce what the executor is doing.
One of the ways that executors deflect questions from beneficiaries is to threaten to sue the beneficiaries. Apparently this works as a deterrent, but I don't see why. After all, what could the executor sue the beneficiary for? For asking questions that the beneficiary has not just a right but an obligation to ask? For trying to enforce what's in a valid, legal will? That's a bluff I'd be prepared to call.
Some beneficiaries recognize this bluster by the executor as aggression designed to keep the beneficiaries from finding out what's really going on, and know that they should hire a lawyer to push the matter. The problem is they don't want to further deplete their inheritance with legal fees. Unfortunately, if they don't hire a lawyer to stop the bleeding, there isn't going to be any inheritance left at all.
One of the ways to cover legal fees when beneficiaries are required to use the courts to enforce a will is to take the legal fees out of the money that would otherwise have been paid to the executor as an executor's fee. If the executor really is as bad as the beneficiaries believe, the court is likely going to be prepared to order that the executor forego his fee. This could mean that the executor has to repay funds to the estate.
If an executor is found to have committed theft of assets of the estate or caused financial loss to the estate through carelessness or extravagance, there can be further penalties. These might include orders to produce an accounting, being removed as an executor or, in the case of theft, even jail time.
So what can a beneficiary do?
Keep in mind that most estates are wrapped up within a year. We normally refer to that concept as "the executor's year". If that amount of time has passed, you have a right to press for distribution of the estate.
Make requests (e.g. for accounting) in writing. Start off with a friendly, co-operative tone for your first request but don't be afraid to be business-like and set deadlines if your first request is ignored.
Understand that enforcing the will doesn't make you greedy. You are making sure that what the deceased wanted to happen is happening. You are entitled to that inheritance from the deceased; the executor isn't giving you anything from his own money.
Consider holding a family or group meeting to allow the executor to prepare and present materials to the group. Perhaps this even needs to be a mediation if communication has already broken down. Make it clear to the executor that you are giving him every chance to co-operate before taking things further.
If all else fails, hire a lawyer. Make sure that the lawyer is a specialist in wills and estates. Pool together with other beneficiaries if possible to collaborate on fees and present a united front to the executor.