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When can a beneficiary get an executor removed?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2024 | Estate Litigation

The executor of an estate (or “personal representative,” as California law refers to the position) has significant and varied responsibilities – even for a comparatively small estate. If the deceased named the executor in their estate plan, they likely trusted them and had confidence in them to handle the responsibility. If they didn’t name one and the probate court chose them, it’s likely someone close to the deceased.

Regardless of how they got the position, it’s not uncommon for beneficiaries not to approve of them from the start – even if it’s a relative – and to take issue with how efficiently they’re handling the responsibilities and how much they’re keeping you informed. 

If you feel that way, that’s likely not cause to petition the probate court to have them removed and replaced with someone else. Typically, to be removed, an executor must be engaged in some type of fraud or illegal activity regarding the estate or completely neglecting or unable to handle their responsibilities.

What does California probate law say?

Assuming the personal representative meets the legal requirements, like being at least 18, a resident of the U.S. and having basic competency (for example, not be under a conservatorship), they can only be removed for specific reasons. These include the following:

  • They have “wasted, embezzled, mismanaged, or committed a fraud on the estate” or are “about to do so.”
  • They have “wrongfully neglected the estate” or “long neglected to perform any act as personal representative.”
  • Their removal is required for “protection of the estate or interested persons.”

The law also states that if the personal representative was the deceased’s business partner, they can be removed if “an interested person objects to the appointment.

Knowing the grounds for personal representative removal can help you determine whether they apply to the estate for which you’re a beneficiary. If you believe that estate assets are being stolen or mismanaged, you want to act as soon as possible. Before taking the matter to the probate court, it’s wise to get experienced legal guidance.