When Will the Court Remove an Executor or Remove a Trustee of an Estate?
Executors or estate trustees are generally supposed to pay an estate’s debts, sell estate property, and finally distribute estate assets to beneficiaries according to a will and the law. But what if they don’t? Sometimes, executors or estate trustees make the mistake of treating estate assets as their own, rather than funds to be carefully administered for the benefit of beneficiaries. An estate administration lawyer will not be able to help; they receive instructions from the executor or trustee. Co-trustees and beneficiaries may have no choice but to hire their own estate litigation lawyer to preserve estate assets, enforce compliance with a will or the law, or simply push a slow-moving executor or trustee into action. In many circumstances, the only answer may be to remove an executor or remove a trustee. You may be able to take the executor or estate trustee’s place after they have been removed, in some circumstances.
Poor Performance as a Reason to Remove an Executor or Remove an Trustee
Often, estate trustees are not professional money managers. They are typically relatives of the deceased without financial experience or sophistication. It is not surprising that many executors or estate trustees are not right for the job. Signs that you may need to remove an executor or remove a trustee arise when they:
- fail to follow a will’s instructions;
- delay in selling assets or distributing funds;
- incompetently administer business assets;
- misappropriate estate funds; or
- fail to keep proper records.
Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest means that the goals of two different parties are incompatible. In estate law, you can only remove an executor or remove a trustee if they are in a serious conflict. Examples of serious executor or estate trustee conflicts include when:
- the executor or estate trustee is also a beneficiary and there is a dispute over whether a will applies, how to interpret a will, or whether someone was a dependent of the deceased;
- the executor or estate trustee lives in a property owned by the estate, or uses it for storage;
- the executor or estate trustee wants to buy estate property or has already done so;
- the executor or estate trustee pays themselves or their friends;
- the executor or estate trustee uses estate property for personal reasons, like driving the estate’s vehicle; or
- any situation in which the executor or estate trustee may favour their own interests above the beneficiaries.
You will need an estate litigation lawyer to do something about an executor or estate trustee’s serious conflict of interest or poor performance. An estate litigation lawyer can use the court to force the executor or estate trustee into action or potentially remove an executor or remove an estate trustee. If a dispute will take several months to resolve, the parties may need a temporary trustee to administer the estate until the dispute is resolved.
- Beneficiary: persons interested in the estate or trust property.
- Estate: a person’s money and property in its entirety at the time of their death.
- Estate Trustee (Executor): the representative designated to carry out the terms of a will or manage estate funds pursuant to intestacy procedures.
- Intestate (Intestacy): when a person dies without a valid will.