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When can a beneficiary seek to remove an estate’s executor?

It’s not uncommon for surviving family members of someone who has passed away to have an issue with the person that the deceased named to be the executor (or “personal representative,” as it’s called in Texas law) of their estate. If that’s how you feel, you’re not alone.

Maybe it’s another relative whom you don’t completely trust to be fair or whom you don’t think is up to the task. Perhaps it’s a friend or colleague of your loved one whom you don’t even know. People often struggle over whether it’s better to choose someone in the family to administer their estate or whether by appointing someone outside the family, they help prevent intrafamily conflict.

It’s important to understand that you can’t seek to remove someone from that position without sufficient cause. As long as they meet the state’s requirements to be an executor and they have accepted the position, you have to give them a chance. Unfortunately, a beneficiary can’t petition the probate court to appoint a different executor until they provide a valid reason for doing so.

What does Texas law say?

Here are some of the reasons a probate judge can remove an executor:

  • They’ve “misapplied, embezzled, or removed from the state” property that belongs to the estate.
  • They’ve engaged in “gross misconduct or mismanagement in the performance of any duties.”
  • They haven’t complied with a court order.
  • They’re “incapable of properly performing any duties of trust.”
  • They haven’t settled the estate within three years (unless they were granted an extension by the court.

All of these things require evidence. If you’re a beneficiary, you will need to present evidence that an executor is guilty of one or more of these or other valid reasons for removal. A probate judge can also remove an executor without a petition if they have cause to do so.

Remember that if your loved one chose this person to manage their estate, they likely had a good reason for doing so. But, if you have serious doubts about an executor’s ability to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the estate and its beneficiaries, it may be wise to seek legal guidance sooner rather than later. You don’t want to interfere with their ability to do their job, but you don’t want to find out too late that your loved one’s assets are being mismanaged and their wishes are being thwarted as a result.

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