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Removing a Washington state executor for mismanaging an estate

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2023 | Firm News |

An executor is an individual chosen to manage someone’s estate affairs after death. This person, selected by the individual who wrote the will or a court, is responsible for managing the estate’s assets, paying debts and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

In some cases, an executor may breach their fiduciary duty, have a conflict of interest or have other issues that necessitate their removal and replacement. Following are some common reasons for removing an executor from an estate.

Breach of fiduciary duty

Fiduciary duty means that an estate’s executor agrees to perform their responsibilities with the highest degree of honesty, loyalty, care and confidentiality while serving the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

If the executor breaches this legal duty, the court will remove them from their position. A breach could involve commingling funds from the estate with their own money, such as depositing assets from the state into their account.

The executor can also suffer removal if they receive a conviction for a crime they committed related to the estate administration. Additionally, any criminal activity involvement by the executor outside the estate will likely require their removal.

Incompetence or non-performance

An executor that cannot capably handle all of the activities involved in managing an estate would require removal. Typical activities include conversations with attorneys and accountants, filing papers with the court and communicating with the beneficiaries, among other tasks.

An individual who does not perform all necessary duties efficiently and promptly or fails to comply with court orders about the estate’s administration can also warrant removal.

Misappropriation of assets

If the court finds an executor to have misused or mishandled estate assets, this action can result in removal. Improper activities can include using assets of the estate to engage in unauthorized transactions. An executor is entitled to a commission for services performed; however, if they use estate funds for their benefit and exclude the beneficiaries, this constitutes theft and immediate removal.

Additional reasons for removal

Various other reasons can require an executor’s removal, such as a refusal to give information to beneficiaries regarding the estate or demonstrating bias for or against particular beneficiaries. If the individual becomes physically or mentally incapacitated and cannot fulfill their duties, the court may also remove them.

Awareness of an executor’s duties and reasons for removal can ensure the proper management of an estate’s affairs.