An executor de son tort is a person who wrongfully interferes with the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. This person may be a stranger or they simply might be someone who was not given proper authority to do so by the deceased’s will or a court.
The literal translation of “executor de son tort” means executor of one’s own wrong. In other words, they became the executor of an estate due to their improper actions.
The laws that govern estate administration generally provide that an intermeddler will be labeled as an executor de son tort if:
- They assert ownership over some portion of the deceased’s estate (such as by taking property or canceling investments); and
- Their actions are unlawful (e.g., they do not have the authority to do such actions).
For example, if a person unlawfully asserts ownership over the deceased’s real property or distributes some of their personal belongings, then they will become an executor de son tort.
In addition, an executor de son tort will be held liable for anything that results in their handling of the estate. Actions carried out in accordance with the terms of a false or forged will, also qualify as behavior that will turn a person into an executor de son tort.
However, some jurisdictions hold that unauthorized acts done out of charity and goodwill for the deceased will not convert a person into an executor de son tort. Rather, it must be proven that the person demonstrated some sort of unlawful or overall negative intent in acting without proper authority.
In contrast, a “rightful executor” is a person who has been given the legal authority to administer the deceased person’s estate. This power typically comes from the deceased’s will, or if no one is named in the will, then a probate court will appoint someone as executor.
Finally, there are some instances where a person may become an executor de son tort if they unlawfully take over or challenge the authority of a rightful executor.
What Rights Does an Executor De Son Tort Have?
Generally speaking, when someone becomes an executor de son tort, they will also assume all of the duties and obligations associated with a rightful executor. However, they will not be entitled to any privileges or benefits that a rightful executor enjoys, such as being compensated for their duties.
In other words, the person will be liable for all acts committed as an executor de son tort, but will not receive any advantages from the estate since they are not a lawful executor. Thus, an executor de son tort can be sued as if they were a rightful executor.
Additionally, an executor de son tort will not have the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of the estate. Furthermore, if a rightful executor is involved in a lawsuit, an executor de son tort cannot be named as their co-defendant. As such, they will not be awarded any proceeds from the lawsuit.
What If There is a Conflict with Other Executors?
If the executor de son tort acts in a way that conflicts with other rightful executors, usually the decisions made by the rightful executors are the ones that will prevail.
If the conflict continues, the rightful executors will be permitted to file a lawsuit against the executor de son tort, or alternatively, they can request an injunction order. Briefly, an injunction is an order issued by a court that legally requires a person to cease their actions.
On the other hand, if the actions of the executor de son tort are approved by other rightful executors, then the rightful ones can authorize such decisions, so long as they do not conflict with the provisions contained in the deceased’s will.
Lastly, the probate court may also consider the rights of both the deceased’s heirs and/or beneficiaries when evaluating the acts or decisions of an executor de son tort.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Issues Involving an Executor De Son Tort?
Disputes over estate property can often be very difficult to resolve. They usually involve a broad range of legal issues, which require the application of various laws that may differ depending on the state. In some cases, a court may even have to intervene to settle an executor de son tort dispute.
Thus, if you are having issues that involve an executor de son tort, then it may be in your best interest to speak to a local tort lawyer. An experienced estate lawyer can help you bring a case against a person who is wrongfully acting as an executor de son tort. Your lawyer can also suggest other legal options that you may be able to pursue instead of court.
Alternatively, if you are the person who is being sued for acting as an executor de tort, then you should speak to a lawyer right away. Your lawyer will be able to determine and discuss the potential outcome of your case, and can do research to find out whether or not there are any defenses you can raise against the other party’s claims.