If a loved one died and appointed an executor that you do not believe is up to the task, it can be difficult to speak up. However, as a beneficiary you have a right to contest the choice of executor in order to protect the estate.

The importance of the right choice

An executor must be a trusted person capable of filling out paperwork over several months or years with different government offices. Your loved one may have chosen someone several years ago whose life has taken an unexpected turn or who is now significantly affected by the person’s death.

The state of New York sets clear guidelines and consequences for people who are not qualified to be trusted with an estate. The following can be grounds for removal as executor in the first stages of probate or estate administration:

  • Someone who cannot be located (or is in prison)
  • A minor or someone who is incapable in the eyes of the court
  • A felon or person with a criminal history of fraud, theft
  • Certain non- U.S. residents or non-English speakers
  • Someone currently struggling with substance abuse

If you realize that the executor is violating the trust or misleading beneficiaries in the middle or later stages of probate, you will need to present a formidable argument in a timely manner to protect yourself, the other beneficiaries, and the legacy of the estate. This may include bringing legal action against them.

How to remove an executor

If you have reason to believe that an elected executor is not qualified to act in the best interest of the estate, it would be wise to prepare your argument. There are several paths to removing an executor from an estate, but it can be difficult.

There are laws in place to protect an estate’s executor from ill-meaning beneficiaries and vice-versa. A court will be interested in assuring that if you challenge the executor that you are not acting selfishly but in the interest of the estate.

You will have to present compelling evidence and a logical argument to a probate judge. A lawyer can usually provide the best advice for presenting your challenge in a legal setting. They can also approach the executor with more authority and gravitas than an ordinary person. Going through a lawyer can demonstrate the seriousness of your intentions.

After challenging an executor’s status, the person may have a short period of time to prepare a rebuttal, correct their disqualification, or voluntarily renounce their position. A judge will make the final decision.

Executors are entrusted with an important duty to uphold a person’s legacy and care for their heirs by closing financial matters and distributing assets. If this person does not prove worthy of their duty, it may be in your power to remove them before they can do irreversible damage.