The executor of a will has the responsibility of fulfilling the decedent’s wishes, in addition to handling the estate’s final affairs. Even though the executor has significant power over the distribution of the estate, he or she may only do so according to the wishes of the deceased.
If you believe that an executor is not being fair or is not properly performing his or her responsibilities, it may be possible to obtain relief. You may be able to hire counsel and ask the court to remove and replace the executor. You may wonder when it’s possible to seek to remove the executor of a will. Here’s what you should know:
The Executor Must Engage in Misconduct
Courts may not remove an executor simply because the beneficiaries dislike an executor or his or her decisions. If the executor is making a good faith effort to carry out the wishes of the testator in accordance with the terms of the will, it is unlikely that a court will intervene. Alternatively, if a beneficiary can prove that the executor somehow engaged in misconduct or is otherwise incompetent, it may be possible to petition the court for the removal of an executor.
Some examples of executor misconduct and grounds for removal include:
- Failing to follow the instructions of the will
- Failing to submit the will to the court for probate
- Failing to pay estate debts
- Conflict of interest, self-dealing, or using any money from the estate for personal expenses
- Mismanaging the estate resulting in a significant loss of value
If you are a beneficiary and can prove that the executor mismanaged the estate in some way, it’s likely that the court will relieve the executor of their duties and appoint a replacement. Some wills may identify an alternate executor, which may be the court’s choice. If no replacement executor is named in the will, the court will give that responsibility to any person it deems appropriate. It may be to another beneficiary or it might be to some independent third party upon whom the parties may agree.
The Position of the Executor is One of Trust
While the executor of a will has a lot of power, there are still limitations. The executor must always act in the best interest of the estate. Like any other position with significant responsibility, there are systems in place to hold executors accountable and make sure that executors do not abuse their authority.
If you have a valid reason for challenging a will or the actions of an executor, our lawyers at Obenshain Law Group may be able to help you seek the justice you deserve. Give us a call at (540) 318-7360 or fill out an online contact form.