After a loved one passes on, the executor of their estate is arguably the most critical person outside the court when it comes to settling the deceased’s finances and assets. They are responsible for ensuring beneficiaries receive their inheritances, verifying and paying debts, and closing out the estate. In addition, the executor is most responsible for guiding the will—the final wishes of the deceased—through the probate process.
But what happens when an executor is unfit for the task? That can hold up inheritance and the settling of the estate considerably.
The named executor may have seemed like a good choice at one time. But as time passes, people can change. Perhaps they’ve become corrupt, or maybe they’ve succumbed to substance abuse or some other illness that makes them no longer the best choice for the job.
If you are a beneficiary of a will and you strongly believe the executor is no longer competent or trustworthy, you have a legal right to speak up. Because closing an estate can be a months-long process involving a lot of paperwork, there must be a sense of consistency, and all parties must trust the executor.
While the details may vary from state to state, there are several instances you could use as grounds for removal:
Generally, a beneficiary’s challenge to an executor may only be made, and simply disagreeing with a decision laid out in the will is not sufficient reason. However, if the estate has already entered probate, these are some possible reasons you could state when contesting an executor:
If an executor meets any of the above criteria or feels not qualified for another relevant reason, you can petition the probate court to assign a new executor.
Remember, your petition may not succeed. The asking for a new executor must be in the best interest of the estate, not just your best interest. It’s essential to have experienced legal guidance when challenging a sitting executor.
You must present compelling evidence in probate court in front of a judge. Your attorney can help you prepare, collect evidence, and state your case on your behalf. The executor, in turn, is allowed time to prepare a rebuttal or correct whatever issue forms the base of the challenge. Or they may decide to step down voluntarily.
After all this, the probate court will present a ruling. If the court agrees with you, a new executor will be assigned, and the estate can continue to move through probate.
Beneficiaries will have a particular obligation to protect their recently-deceased loved one’s legacy and estate. A poor executor can wreak a lot of damage to yourself, other beneficiaries, and the estate as a whole. If you have compelling evidence that the will’s current executor is inappropriate, you must say something.
The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Look for qualified estate attorneys in your areas, such as Ohio’s Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, LLC, to help guide you through the process of contesting an executor. They can advise you on the merits of your case, help you navigate the court, and collect and present evidence.
The process as a whole can be complicated and has no guarantee of success, but with an expert legal team on your side, your chances improve significantly. If you need help, give our team a call! (419) 662-3100