When Pennsylvania residents prepare their wills, they normally designate trusted individuals to serve as the executors of their estates. Executors have several important fiduciary duties and must act in the best interests of the’ heirs. Unfortunately, some executors do not uphold their duties. When the heirs to an estate want to remove an executor, they must petition the probate court and show that they have valid grounds.

Standing and grounds to challenge an executor

Before someone can challenge an executor, he or she must first have standing. People have standing when they have a legal interest in the estate, including beneficiaries named in the will, people who would have inherited if there wasn’t a will, and creditors. Once standing has been established, people must show that they have valid grounds to challenge the executor. An executor may generally be removed for incompetence, conflict of interest, or misconduct.

Petition and hearing

If a person has standing to file a petition, and there are valid grounds for the executor to be removed, the challenger will need to file a petition to remove the executor with the probate court. The reasons for why the executor should be removed should be included in the petition. Once it is filed, the court will schedule a hearing on the petition. The challenger will be able to present evidence about the reasons why the executor should be removed. If the court finds that the executor has engaged in misconduct, has a conflict of interest, or is incompetent, the executor will be removed. A successor executor who was named in the will may then be appointed. If no successor was named, the court may appoint someone else to serve as the estate’s executor.

While most executors are competent and do not engage in misconduct, others sometimes do. People who are named as executors and are unsure about whether they can handle the responsibilities may want to talk to estate administration lawyers for help. An attorney may advise executors about their duties and assist them with managing the estate. Working with an attorney may help people to prevent mistakes.