The executor of an estate distributes property to beneficiaries, communicates with the probate courts and settles someone’s affairs. It is a solemn and often largely thankless job that people perform out of respect for the deceased individual or concern for the beneficiaries of the estate.
An executor has a fiduciary duty to those beneficiaries and should seek to act in their best interests. They also have some personal liability for financial mistakes that they make during estate administration. Family members are often grateful that someone else has to handle the process.
Sadly, sometimes those tasked with the administration of an estate engage in misconduct or harm the estate in some way. In scenarios like the two below, family members of the deceased or known beneficiaries may need to challenge an executor and potentially ask the California probate courts to remove them from their role.
1. When they engage in some kind of misconduct
There are many ways for an executor to abuse their position of financial authority. They could ignore estate instructions and distribute property to people based on their own wishes. They could embezzle from the estate or seek secondary profits from it by hiring certain businesses owned by people they know to perform services for the estate.
In scenarios where people can show that the executor has engaged in some form of misconduct, a probate judge could potentially remove them from their position and replace them with someone who will act in the best interests of the estate.
2. When they prove incompetent or negligent
Some executors get removed from their positions without ever taking any action. Families may have to challenge an executor who fails to initiate probate, notify creditors or secure property in a timely manner.
Other times, beneficiaries may need to challenge an executor when they do not manage estate resources properly. Mistakes when handling assets could cost the estate thousands of dollars and deprive people of their expected inheritance. When there is evidence of negligence or gross mismanagement of resources, the courts may remove an executor from their position.
Recognizing when probate litigation may be necessary can help beneficiaries protect their interest in an estate from the failings of others.