Practical, real-world information about wills, estate planning, business succession planning and elder law in Canada
What if it is the executor that is helping himself to household items?Can the executor give household and personal items away to friends and to charity?
The executor has to do what the will says, but most people don't give their executors much help because they don't talk about the household items in their wills. This means the executor has to rely on the general law, the wishes of the beneficiaries and common sense.If a will says nothing about household goods and simply leaves an entire estate to beneficiaries, then the household goods are included in that. The beneficiaries have to get everything, and it has to be split equally.What happens in reality is that nobody wants the used socks and washcloths and pencils. Those items are usually thrown away because they have no value and it costs more to deal with them than it does to ship them or pack them.Same goes for items such as used clothing, small appliances, books etc. If nobody wants them, they are often given to charity. This is acceptable, as long as the executor is careful about not giving away items that are valuable or that are specifically requested by a beneficiary.So, that's the general law of things. The executor can't legally just take things for himself. The estate doesn't belong to the executor; he is merely the agent of the deceased. Neither can he decide to give away items to people who are not named in the will. Like I said, common sense has to prevail. If the beneficiaries have said they don't want something and it's going to go to charity anyway, perhaps the executor would rather keep it for sentimental reasons.If, on the other hand, the executor is simply furnishing his own house or his kids' homes from the deceased's estate, no that isn't ok unless this is what the will allows. An executor who takes anything from an estate - whether it's money or cutlery - is personally liable for that loss to the estate. In other words, if he wants it, he can buy it.Lynne
As a Executor, what if you give one of the beneficiaries listed in the will several chances to meet and divide household goods - and they keep stalling or changing the date or when a date is set, they don't show up. Can we proceed with distributing household goods and giving the rest to charity after giving them several opportunities?
Sooner or later you are going to have to move ahead and not let one beneficiary hold up the proceedings for everyone. I However, make sure that you back yourself up with written communications. E-mail is fine, but make sure you print a copy and keep it. It sounds as if several dates have been selected and set aside. That being the case, set one last date. Tell everyone involved that the division is going ahead with no further delays. If that beneficiary cannot make it to that meeting, he or she can send a proxy person, or can make a written request for particular items that he or she wants. If you go ahead on that date without the beneficiary in question, follow up the next day with an email to him or her saying that the division went ahead, and they have 24 hours to look at what's left over before you take the rest to charity.Obviously you have to give them every chance to exercise the right that is given to them in the will to inherit household objects. However, you also have a duty to the estate in general to wrap it up as efficiently as possible. The house cannot be cleaned and sold until household objects are removed, so that person's delay is affecting your ability to do your job. Just be completely transparent and make sure that beneficiary understands this is a final date.Lynne