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Can you challenge the executor of an estate in court?

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | Sep 24, 2020 |

When someone dies, the executor of their estate usually has a pretty big job to handle. Most of the time, everything gets accomplished as it should. Even if there are minor conflicts between an executor of an estate and the heirs, those will generally get sorted out over time.

But what about those times when things don’t seem to be heading in the right direction? What about situations where there’s more going on than mere conflicts in personality or a few frustrated expectations?

It may be time to ask the court to remove the executor and assign someone else to the position. Every situation is a little different, but here are some of the main reasons people end up taking the executor of an estate to court:

  1. The executor seems to be ignoring their responsibilities. If the executor hasn’t taken steps to locate and secure the deceased’s assets, contact all the heirs and file all the appropriate paperwork in a timely manner, that’s a serious problem.
  2. The executor is uncooperative with or hostile toward the heirs. Maybe your mother left your oldest sibling in charge of her estate — but your sibling has had a falling out with the rest of the family. They ignore messages and have ceased communicating about the estate.
  3. The executor is insolvent or unfit. An executor with major financial problems may not be the most trustworthy to handle the deceased’s assets. Similarly, if an executor appears to have problems with drugs or alcohol, or has a major health crisis that interferes with their ability to function, they may need to be replaced.
  4. The executor is mismanaging the estate’s assets or self dealing. Assets may need to be sold, invested or otherwise managed for a while. If an executor isn’t up to the job — or starts acting like the estate is their personal piggy bank — they should be removed.

Estate disputes and litigation can get very messy very fast. Make sure that you obtain experienced legal representation as soon as you suspect a problem with an executor.