The beneficiaries of an estate rely on the executor or personal representative to properly handle assets and distribute them according to someone’s wishes. Typically, that is exactly what happens during the probate process.
Someone who accepts responsibility for estate administration will handle matters in probate court, communicate with outside parties that have an interest in the estate and successfully carry out someone’s last wishes. Sadly, there are occasionally scenarios in which people end up fighting in probate court over the actions of a personal representative. In some cases, the beneficiaries of an estate may even initiate legal action to remove someone from their role.
Gross incompetence or resource mismanagement
One of the more common reasons that beneficiaries take legal action is to protect their inheritance. People naturally worry about how an executor manages assets, and in some cases, their efforts do more harm than good. For example, they may sell investments in a way that triggers capital gains taxes or make investments with estate resources that are unlikely to return any meaningful profit. They could also attempt to sell estate resources for less than the fair market value. Beneficiaries may challenge someone’s role based on how their actions affect the value of the estate.
A breach of fiduciary duty
Executors have a responsibility to put the best interests of the beneficiaries of the estate first in all major administration decisions. However, some people will prioritize their own benefit above the needs of those who will inherit from the estate. They might squander estate resources to pay for services from themselves or people they know. They might even embezzle. Such actions would likely justify the decision of beneficiaries to seek someone’s removal from their role. Situations involving significant delays in probate matters or a failure to fulfill key responsibilities can also trigger litigation that will remove someone from their role as the representative of the estate.
Understanding why people may seek to remove a fiduciary from their role can benefit those who are concerned about their inheritance as well as those who agree to help with the administration of someone’s estate to make more informed choices about their options.