Is an Executor Personally Liable for His/Her Actions?
Being an executor is often a demanding and thankless job.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard an executor say, “Wow!  I’m so glad I got to do this!”  In addition to mourning the loss of a loved one, executors face the sometimes-daunting challenge of finding and proving the will, gathering and valuing property, paying bills and staying on top of financial obligations.  On top of that, an executor can, in some circumstances, be personally liable for his/her actions.  

Because executors are placed in a position of trust they are held to the highest standard of care.   As such, if they breach that duty of care, they may be held personally liable for the damage that comes as a result of violating that trust.  This is why it is absolutely critical for an executor to be beyond reproach in his/her dealings with the estate.   

Executors who show favoritism to beneficiaries, handle assets irresponsibly, fail to properly value assets, or act self-servingly, are breaching their fiduciary responsibility.  These folks are at risk of being held personally liable.   If you are acting as an executor, it is imperative that you make all your decisions in connection with the estate as transparent as possible.  And if you are uncertain about how to proceed, contact an appropriate professional (lawyer, accountant, or tax advisor) for guidance.     

Here are some examples of executor actions that could result in personal liability:      

1) Allowing family members or others to move into the decedent's family home-- rent free.
2) Selling everything at a garage sale without properly valuing the items.  For example-- don't assume grandma's old painting wasn't worth much.  Selling it for a few dollars could end up costing her estate, and ultimately, you.
3) Leaving property where it is at risk of being stolen.
4) Giving items away because the deceased "would have wanted it that way."