When a parent passes away, one of the jobs for the estate executor is to make an inventory of their assets. The executor may be an adult child or a third party. They’ve been named in the estate plan as the person who is supposed to inventory assets and help distribute them to the appropriate parties.
But say that the estate executor goes into the parent’s old home, sees items that they would like for themselves, and removes those items from the house. Are they allowed to do this? They are in charge of the probate process, but how much freedom does that give them?
The executor must respect the estate plan
As a general rule, estate executors and other beneficiaries are prohibited from removing items from the house or the estate. Even if these are just small items, like family heirlooms, everything is supposed to stay together while it is inventoried, as the will and the estate planning documents are considered. Only after the proper steps have been taken will those assets be given to the correct people.
Removing items in advance can cause numerous problems. Say that the estate executor takes items out of the house, but those items are assigned to a different beneficiary in the estate plan. This could lead to a major dispute or allegations that the executor has abused their power. Additionally, there may be certain financial obligations – such as paying off outstanding debts – that have to be met before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries.
The process of dividing an estate takes many different steps, and it can be complicated. Those involved need to understand what legal options they have.