The term “probate” refers to the legal process of ensuring that a will is legally valid, but it is generally used for distributing the estate’s assets after death. An executor (either named in the will or appointed by the courts) oversees the process. There is a lot of paperwork and administrative steps, but it generally goes smoothly if they follow the established legal guidelines that regulate it.
The job of an executor involves fiduciary duties, including fulfilling the terms of the will. Unfortunately, not all executors follow through on their obligations. Common reasons are because of simple negligence of not filing a petition for probate or the willful disregard for the decedent’s wishes. They may also claim there are no assets to distribute after paying debts and taxes.
Beneficiaries may need to remove the executor
Regardless of the reason, it may be necessary to remove the executor. Common arguments include:
- They have a conflict of interest.
- They were charged with a felony since becoming the executor.
- They haven’t done anything.
- They didn’t execute the will’s directions.
- They mismanaged the estate or stole from it.
How to hold them accountable
The beneficiaries have two options. They can petition the district court to remove the executor, citing one or more of the reasons listed above. The court may then hear the case and decide if they should remove the executor. The other option is to file a civil lawsuit for financial damages. In this case, the beneficiary must prove that the executor failed to protect the estate’s assets or stole from it.
Each case is unique, so beneficiaries with questions should discuss the details of their case with a probate attorney who handles litigation.