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When can you get an executor of an estate removed?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2024 | Estate Planning |

The executor of an estate (or “personal representative,” as it’s known under Minnesota law) is responsible for settling the estate and carrying out the wishes of the deceased. When someone puts their estate plan in place (even if it’s just a will), they name someone – and preferably an alternate – to be their personal representative. If a person dies intestate (without a will), a probate court names the personal representative.

Either way, heirs and other beneficiaries may be unhappy with the choice – even if it’s another family member. It’s not uncommon for beneficiaries to further be unhappy with the way the representative is handling their duties.

That doesn’t give them grounds for petitioning for the removal of that person from their position. There’s a high bar for removing a personal representative chosen by a decedent or even by a court. Let’s look at what Minnesota law says about what qualifies as “cause” for removal.

What the law says about “cause”

The law states that there’s cause if it’s “in the best interests of the estate” or if the representative: 

  • Intentionally “misrepresented material facts in the proceedings leading to the appointment”
  • Has disregarded a court order
  • Is “incapable of discharging the duties of office”
  • Has “mismanaged the estate or failed to perform any duty pertaining to the office”

Demonstrating to the probate court that a personal representative should be removed for one or more of these reasons requires presenting evidence. Just because they may not be doing things the way you would or moving at the speed you’d like, that doesn’t mean that they’re failing to carry out the obligations with which they’ve been tasked. 

If you believe, however, that they’re not acting in good faith, taking or misdirecting assets or that they’re simply incapable of carrying out their responsibilities, it’s best to act as soon as possible before irreparable harm is done. It’s wise to first seek legal guidance to review the situation and determine whether you have a case for removal.