When Does a Beneficiary Have the Right to Remove an Executor?

By Joshua Berkley

In general, a beneficiary might be able to petition for the removal of an executor if there are valid reasons.  Executors In Kentucky have fiduciary duties, and beneficiaries might seek their removal for breach of these duties or other serious issues.

Common Grounds for a Beneficiary to Remove an Executor

Some common grounds for removal of an executor by a beneficiary of an estate might include: 

  • Mismanagement of the Estate: This can be due to negligence, theft, or other kinds of misbehavior. For instance, if the executor is using estate assets for personal gain or is not properly preserving the assets, this may constitute grounds for removal.
  • Failure to Provide an Accounting: Executors generally have a duty to provide an accounting of the estate’s assets, debts, and distributions. Failure to do so can be a ground for removal.
  • Conflict of Interest: If the executor has a conflict that prevents them from acting in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries, this might be a reason to seek removal.
  • Incapacity or Incompetence: If the executor becomes incapacitated or is otherwise unable to fulfill their duties, they might be removed.
  • Delay: If an executor is unnecessarily delaying the administration of the estate, this might be grounds for removal.
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty: This is a broad category and can encompass a range of actions where the executor is not acting in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

In Kentucky, if a beneficiary believes they have grounds for the removal of an executor, they would typically need to petition the probate court and provide evidence of the executor’s misconduct or inability to serve. The court would then review the evidence and decide whether removal is appropriate.

It is worth noting that not every mistake or minor delay might be grounds for removal. Courts are generally reluctant to remove executors without a clear and substantial reason.

Steps to Take to Remove an Executor

The following steps should be taken by the beneficiary to try to remove the executor:

  1. Get Evidence: Accumulate evidence that supports the grounds for removal. This could be financial records, correspondence, or other relevant documents.
  2. Mediation: Some jurisdictions may require or recommend mediation between the beneficiary and executor before moving forward with court proceedings. This step provides a chance to resolve the dispute without a court trial.
  3. File a Petition: If mediation does not resolve the issue, the next step typically involves filing a petition with the court that oversees the administration of the estate or trust. This petition would request the removal of the executor.
  4. Notice: After the petition is filed, notice usually has to be given to all interested parties. This may include other beneficiaries and the executor.
  5. Hearing: A court hearing will be scheduled, during which both sides will present their arguments and evidence. The judge will then decide whether the executor should be removed.
  6. Replacement: If the executor is removed, the court will usually appoint a replacement. The will might specify an alternate executor, or the court might appoint someone else deemed fit for the role.
  7. Costs: Keep in mind that this process can be costly, especially if it goes to trial. Furthermore, if the court finds that the petition to remove the executor was filed without good cause, the petitioner (the person seeking removal) might be ordered to pay the executor’s legal fees.
  8. Resolution: If the executor is removed, the new executor will take over the responsibilities of administering the estate or trust, ensuring the beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to.

Contact Berkley Oliver Today to Schedule an Initial Consultation

If someone is considering pursuing the removal of an executor, they should consult with a Kentucky probate attorney to discuss the specific circumstances and to get proper legal advice. Contact Berkley Oliver to determine if you have grounds to remove an executor, and if so, how to go about doing so to ensure beneficiary rights are protected.

About the Author
Josh Berkley is an attorney and owner at Berkley Oliver PLLC who helps individuals implement plans to protect their assets and their loved ones. Josh focuses his practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate, and Elder Law.  From assisting young parents in making a plan to provide for their children, to helping senior clients qualify for Medicaid, Josh works with clients to create estate plans and life plans tailored to each person’s specific goals. He also helps clients with a wide variety of important legal documents such Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate Designations, and Living Wills. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Josh here.