Serving as an executor or trustee requires certain qualities. These fiduciaries must possess undivided loyalty to the beneficiaries and act in the best interests of such beneficiaries.
Oftentimes as a result of love or by virtue of simply being the oldest child, the decedent has named an untrustworthy and in some cases a dishonest executor or trustee. Problems quickly arise in these situations to the point where the estate or trust is being mismanaged or, in the worse case scenario, assets are being stolen from the estate or trust.
In these and other situations and others detailed below, an executor or trustee can be removed by bringing an action before the Orphans Court in the county where the estate is being administered.
The following provides insight as to the grounds for removal under the Section 3182 of the Pennsylvania Estates and Fiduciary Code. This Section 3182 provides that the Orphans Court has the exclusive power to remove a trustee or executor when he or she:
This is a fundamental reason for removal. The fiduciaries must operate an estate and trust with prudence and care. Waste or mismanagement whether intentional or unintentional can support removal.
The executor must be financially secure. If he is insolvent he cannot continue to serve. Even if he is likely to become insolvent then grounds exist for his removal.
The executor and trustee must follow the law without deviation. This is why it is always prudent to retain estate or tax counsel to assist in the administration of estates and trusts.
Here the incapacity must be of the type that prevents that fiduciary from adequately serving as executor or trustee. So if the incapacity is not significant or is of a short duration grounds for removal may not exist.
Here the executor or trustee cannot leave Pennsylvania and continue to serve until the court has ruled on what is adequate security. If he does so without furnishing such bond or other security required, then grounds for removal exist.
It seems pretty obvious that these type of criminal convictions would call for the removal of a fiduciary position such as executor and trustee that call for a high level of trust, fidelity and honor.
This is sort of an open ended category that is available if the other categories discussed above cannot be met but the behavior of the executor or trustee has jeopardized or will jeopardize the estate or trust assets.
Finally, it should be noted that the grounds for removal depend on the facts present in each particular case. As a result, it is often hard to predict how a judge may rule in these matters. However, having compelling and significant evidence and strong witnesses will go a long way in being successful in these matters.
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