When someone passes away, their will is designed to spell out the division of properties and assets amongst one or more beneficiaries. All wills must have an appointed executor, and it is very common for the executor to also be one of the beneficiaries. What happens when the executor of the will steals the money depends on several factors.
An executor of a will is responsible for making sure that the terms of the will are followed out according to the wishes of the decedent. This includes distribution of property and assets, as well as taking care of the decedent's final taxes, paying off debts, and related matters. The executor retains control of the estate until all of the related legal matters have been taken care of, and the assets and properties have been distributed in accordance with the terms of the will.
If the executor of the will steals the money or refuses to distribute it according to the terms of the Will, the beneficiary runs the risk of never receiving the inheritance that they are entitled to.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to bring formal charges against an executor who steals the money or assets meant for the beneficiaries, particularly if the executor is also a beneficiary, and/or if the executor or one of the other beneficiaries has contested the terms of the will. This can sometimes result in assets being tied up, in a sense, during the legal proceedings.
Just because it is often difficult to bring formal charges against an executor who has stolen assets or property or is refusing to distribute them under the terms of the will, this doesn't mean that it is impossible. Beneficiaries, as well as relatives of the deceased and other "interested parties," can bring a petition before the court, presenting evidence that the executor has mishandling the estate and should be removed and a new executor assigned.
If the petition is accepted, an Order To Show Cause is served to the executor, and the case goes to trial. During the trial, the executor is usually prevented from spending any money associated with the estate for any purpose. If the court determines that the executor has mishandled the assets and property of the estate, the person will be removed as executor of the will, ordered to pay back all funds and return all property, and in some cases, can be charged with a criminal felony.
Legal battles and loss of property and assets can be avoided by including a provision in a will that requires the executor to be bonded. This way, if the executor does decide to steal money or anything else from the estate, the company that issued the bond can reimburse the beneficiaries. Ask your attorney for more information about bonding and whether it is a feasible option for you.
When choosing an executor, keep in mind that the person that you choose will be charged with the responsibility of distributing your assets and property, and managing your estate after you die. Choosing someone who is understands the responsibilities of an executor, and is trustworthy and reliable will go a long way toward avoiding future litigation and other headaches for your beneficiaries.