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Monday, February 12, 2018

What's with executors giving personal items to non-beneficiaries?

What is it with executors who give away the deceased's personal and household items to people who are not beneficiaries of the will? This week I've had several calls from family members who are upset and angry at executors who have given the deceased's car to their son and jewelry to their daughter and half a dozen other things.

Executors, stop it! These are not yours to give away! If you want to give your son a car, buy one yourself. You cannot give away estate assets to people who are not in the will. You wouldn't just take your neighbour's car or your boss's car to give away; why would you take one from your siblings?

I'm not sure why, but some executors seem to be able to convince themselves that personal and household items are somehow not part of the estate or they don't matter. Or perhaps they think that nobody will notice. But you had better believe that beneficiaries know and care when Mom or Dad's items are given away to the wrong people.

Let's clarify the rules. Executors must give the estate to the people named in the will. By law, they are trustees for those people. The household and personal items (cars, jewelry, furniture, paintings, photos, appliances, collections, books, clothing, dishes, computer, snowmobiles, etc) are all part of the estate.

If an executor gives away items to the wrong people, the executor should expect that beneficiaries will be upset and sue them. And those beneficiaries will win. The executor will be held personally responsible for the items given to the wrong people. This means the executor will have to pay for legal fees to defend himself in court, legal fees for the people who won the lawsuit against him, and the cost of the missing item as well.

Doesn't seem worth it, does it?

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