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Is it possible to sue an executor?

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2022 | blog, Estate Planning

It is typically very difficult to sue an executor of a will, but it is possible in some cases. It is not common: if suing executors were commonplace, it is unlikely that anybody would want to take on the role.

In most cases, any lawsuits that third party levies against an executor are due to the executor being careless or dishonest. There are two different kinds of lawsuits that a third party may bring against an executor: the first from a creditor, and the second from beneficiaries.

Creditor-related lawsuits

Essentially, the executor is responsible to make sure the estate pays off any creditors. If the estate has enough assets to pay creditors, nothing can go to the beneficiaries until this occurs. If an executor pays creditors in the wrong order, creditors may levy a lawsuit against the estate. In the event that an executor steals money that is rightfully a creditor’s, then the creditor may levy a lawsuit against the executor personally.

Beneficiary-related lawsuits

In certain circumstances, beneficiaries of an estate may also sue an executor. This occurs when the executor does not abide by their “fiduciary duty.” Examples of breaching fiduciary duty include distributing assets too soon, not paying or filing taxes on the estate, losing assets or criminal actions like embezzlement.

In these lawsuits, it is possible for the courts to replace an executor who will act more in line with the interests of the beneficiaries. It is also possible for the court to hold an executor personally liable and award the beneficiaries damages.

It is possible to sue executors, but this is relatively rare.