Can I Fire the Executor of My Uncle's Will?

by Joseph Nicholson

Once the probate court has designated an executor to your uncle’s will, it will not likely remove that person from the role. Being rude to you, not acting according to your schedule or making decisions about the estate you don’t agree with are generally not sufficient reasons to remove an executor. However, if you qualify as an interested person, you may be able to have the executor fired if he does something seriously wrong.

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Interested Person

Only an interested person to the estate can initiate proceedings to remove the executor. Generally, interested persons are those who are present or future beneficiaries or creditors of the estate. It’s likely, but not certain, you would be an interested party to your uncle’s will, but you certainly are if you’re entitled to receive any property under the will or are beneficiary to a trust established by the will. If you are not an interested party, you could still convince someone who is to explore removal of the executor.

Disqualification

An interested party can petition the probate court to remove an executor for disqualification. This means that the person serving as executor does not meet the state’s requirements for executors. Many states have laws that prohibit convicted felons and the mentally unstable from serving as an executor. While this inquiry is usually made prior to appointing the executor, the court could reconsider its decision if new facts come to light.

Unsuitability

Another reason a court could reconsider its appointment of an executor is unsuitability. Though rarely successful, it is possible to have an executor removed because of a serious conflict of interest between the executor and the estate or its beneficiaries. In her official capacity, the executor owes a duty of loyalty and due care to the beneficiaries of the estate. The court is likely to examine these relationships prior to appointing an executor, but new circumstances could result in removal. In some circumstances, the executor may simply be too busy or otherwise unable to effectively perform the duties of administrator.

Misconduct

An executor may be removed from official duties for a wide variety of misconduct. This category includes acts that are simply negligent, such as mismanagement of the estate’s assets or habitually failing to meet court deadlines, to willful misconduct such as embezzlement from the estate or disobedience to a court order. Not only is a court likely to remove an executor for these acts, it will want to be informed about them. If an executor is removed for misconduct, there may be a bond against which you can collect for damages. Some states permit a civil lawsuit to recover damages.