What constitutes embezzling from an estate?

UPDATED: Aug 2, 2011

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What constitutes embezzling from an estate?

My dad died about 1 1/2 years ago. Before he died he was in the midst of selling his home; all that was left to do was sign the closing papers. The title company allowed me to sign the closing documents after he had passed. The title company gave me the proceeds except for $13,000 that was due for a hospital bill that my dad had not paid from a previous stroke he had. Proceeds were about $60,000 of that I have about 26,000. He has over $200,000 in hospital bills. The judge wants to close the estate and now I must fess up to my spending. Is this embezzlement, could I go to jail?

Asked on August 2, 2011 Oregon


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Embezzlement is the misappropriation of assets entrusted to you.  Are you the personal representative of the estate?  And you used the funds for yourself rather than to pay off debt of the estate?  Then you did breach your fiduciary duty here by spending the money on  yourself rather than for estate purposes.  I would seek help from an attorney in your area on the matter as soon as you can.  You need to fess up, as you say, and figure out what you need to do.  The hospital bills can be compromised or the estate can file for bankruptcy, as the bills exceed the proceeds anyway at this point in time.  Get help.

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