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Removing an executor for fraud or conflict of interest

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2023 | Probate & Estate Litigation |

Executors have a fiduciary responsibility toward the beneficiaries of the estate they are administering. If they fail in these duties, the beneficiaries can sue for their removal and replacement.

Removal of an executor can only take place in certain circumstances. For example, it might be possible to remove an executor who commits fraud, or it might be possible to remove an executor who has a conflict of interest.

Removal for fraud

Sometimes an executor might make a promise to estate beneficiaries that they cannot follow through on, to the detriment of the estate. When this happens, the estate beneficiaries might want the executor removed, on the basis that the executor committed fraud.

But a broken promise alone cannot form the basis of a removal for fraud. To remove an executor for fraud, an executor must make a promise that they have no intention of keeping.

Removal for conflict of interest

An executor might also be removed if they have a conflict of interest. If an executor lets funds be paid to an estate that they are also a beneficiary to, then they must take certain steps.

In such situations, the executor should either resign, fully inform all estate beneficiaries of the conflict or move the court to appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the rights of the estate beneficiaries. The failure to take these actions could result in removal.

Removing an executor is a legal action

Beneficiaries to an estate cannot simply kick the executor out of their role upon a whim. Removing an executor requires legal proceedings, and there are only certain grounds upon which an executor can be removed.

Ultimately, courts view the deceased’s will as their final words, and the executor appointed in the will should be allowed to stay in that role unless doing so would be unduly harmful to the estate or its beneficiaries.