When a person dies in California, a fundamental part of the probate process will be having a personal representative to adhere to the decedent’s wishes. The personal representative is also referred to as an executor, among other terms. This is a role with significant responsibility. The testator will generally name a person he or she trusts to perform the duties. But in some cases, there are issues with the estate plan and an interested person will try to remove the personal representative from the position. Understanding the law in these difficult situations is key.
A personal representative and petitions for removal
The law addresses circumstances in which there is an attempt to remove a personal representative from office. There might or might not be viable reasons to do so, but for the testator, it is imperative to understand the law when creating an estate plan. So too is it critical for the personal representative and interested parties to know their rights if this is attempted. In addition to the interested person having the legal right to petition that a personal representative be removed, it is also possible to petition that a successor be appointed.
The court will assess the case and decide if there is sufficient information to remove the personal representative. If it believes there is grounds for it, then the personal representative will be called to appear to defend him or herself and state why calls for removal are unwarranted. The powers of this person can be suspended during the case. There are specific reasons why a personal representative can be removed. They include problems with the estate being mismanaged, embezzled or there being fraud; a lack of ability to fulfill the duties of the role; neglecting the estate; failing to protect the estate for interested persons; and other reasons to be determined based on the evidence.
Estate planning and probate issues generally require professional assistance
It is unfortunate that estate planning and probate are frequent catalysts for dispute among family members, heirs and other interested parties. However, it does happen and people should be cognizant of how to deal with these challenges. This is true from the creating of the estate plan through probate and amid possible disagreements as to whether the personal representative is doing the job according to the law. For these issues and others, it can be useful to have experienced guidance to understand how to proceed.