Fraud Claims: Some Important Information For Executors And Beneficiaries
In California, if a decedent’s Will names the person they want to be put in charge of administering their estate after they die, that named person will be appointed as the executor upon the decedent’s death, unless the court finds them unfit to serve as executor. Often, an executor will be a decedent’s spouse, child, or other trusted family member.
Unfortunately, sometimes, people choose the wrong people to act as executors, or the people selected to serve as executors change over the years. When a person chooses the wrong person to act as their estate’s executor, or when the person named in a Will as executor changes for the worse over the years, issues can arise. One common issue that arises in such situations is executor fraud.
What Is Executor Fraud?
Generally, executor fraud happens when an estate executor uses dishonesty to obtain benefits from the decedent’s estate for themselves or someone else who has no legal right to receive the benefits.
There are many ways through which an executor can commit fraud. Some of the most common ways that executors commit fraud against decedents’ estates include;
- Not being honest about estate assets
- Hiding or leaving out estate assets
- Falsifying liabilities
- Withholding inheritances
- Underpaying a beneficiary
- Selling an estate asset at a price that is below market value to a relative or friend.
What Should You Do if You Suspect an Executor Is Committing or Has Committed Fraud?
If you suspect an executor is committing or has committed fraud, you have options. For example, California law allows people who have suffered a loss because of executor fraud to sue an executor and hold the executor liable for the loss. In California, claims of executor fraud can have severe consequences, including the personal liability to the executor.
Also, you can petition for the removal of an executor who commits fraud. According to California Probate Code § 8500, any interested person can ask the court to remove an executor from office. According to California Probate Code § 8502, a California executor, also known as a personal representative, may be discharged from office if they have embezzled, wasted, mismanaged, or committed fraud on a decedent’s estate or are about to do so. Usually, claims of executor fraud are brought forward by beneficiaries.
What To Do if You Are Facing Executor Fraud Charges
If you are accused of committing executor fraud, you need to take immediate action. If you don’t want to be removed from office or face personal liability, which means having to pay a plaintiff or plaintiffs out of your pocket, it is imperative that you reach out to a probate litigation attorney who can defend you. It is crucial that you don’t avoid fraud charges, as doing that will only lead to a default judgment. Suppose the court enters a default judgment against you. In such a case, you will end up paying a plaintiff or plaintiffs even if the charges are untrue.
Contact a California Probate Lawyer
Need help holding an executor responsible for their fraudulent actions or challenging an executor fraud claim made against you by an interested person? If so, contact the dedicated California probate attorney, Robert L. Cohen -The Probate Guy- to schedule a telephonic consultation.