An executor de son tort is a person who person who intermeddles in the distribution of a deceased person’s collective property known as their estate. They can sometimes be a stranger or a person without the authority provided in a will. Executor de son tort means “executor of his own wrong”, i.e., they became an executor based on their wrongdoing.
Laws governing estate administration provide that an intermeddler becomes an executor de son tort if:
- Their actions are unlawful
- They assert ownership over some portion of the deceased’s estate, such as taking property or canceling investments.
For example, if a person unlawfully asserts ownership over the deceased’s home, or distributes some of their belongings, they become an executor de son tort. An executor de son tort is liable for all their actions regarding the estate. Acting according to a false or forged will also make a person an executor de son tort.
However, some jurisdictions hold that unauthorized acts done out of charity and goodwill for the deceased will not convert the person into an executor de son tort. The person must demonstrate some sort of unlawful or generally negative intent in acting without authority.
In contrast, a “rightful executor” is a person lawfully invested with the authority to administer the deceased person’s estate. They derive their authority from the person’s will, or if none is named in the will, they are appointed by a probate court. Sometimes a person becomes an executor de son tort if they unlawfully usurp or challenge the authority of a rightful executor.
Generally speaking, if one becomes an executor de son tort, they will incur all the duties and obligations associated with a rightful executor. However, they will not be entitled to any privileges or benefits that a rightful executor has. In other words, he is liable for all his actions as an executor de son tort, but cannot receive any advantage from the estate since he is not a lawful executor.
Thus, an executor de son tort may be sued as if they were a rightful executor. However, they do not have the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of the estate. Further, if a rightful executor is involved in a lawsuit, an executor de son tort cannot be named as a co-defendant in order to obtain the proceeds from a lawsuit.
If the executor de son tort acts in a way that conflicts with other rightful executors, usually decisions the rightful executors will prevail. If the conflict continues, the rightful executors may file a lawsuit against the executor de son tort, or they can obtain an injunction ordering the person to cease their actions.
If the actions of the executor de son tort are approved by other executors, they may ratify such decisions, so long as they do not conflict with the provisions contained in the will. Also, a court of law will consider the rights of the heirs and beneficiaries when evaluating the acts of an executor de son tort.
Disputes over estate property can often involve be complicated to resolve. If there is an issue with an executor de son tort, it is advisable to contact an estate lawyer. An attorney will be able to provide advice regarding violations of estate law, which can vary according to jurisdiction.