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What Can I Do if an Executor is Not Doing Their Job?

When a person passes away, numerous tasks need to be completed to administer their estate. If the individual died without a will, the probate court will designate an administrator to assist with the process. If the decedent had a will, they may have named someone to serve as their personal representative or executor. When the designated individual fails to act, it can result in significant complications for the estate and the decedent’s heirs. If your loved one has died and you have concerns about the designee’s performance, you will want to know: What can I do if an executor is not doing their job?

What is an Executor?

In California, the term personal representative refers to a person who is responsible for ensuring that an estate is properly administered during probate. In some states, this individual is called an executor. A personal representative may be referred to as an executor in California as well. When a person dies intestate (without a will), the court will appoint an administrator to serve in this role. The court must appoint both the executor and administrator, and they will essentially have the same responsibilities during probate.

What Does an Executor Do During Probate?

Some of the executor’s responsibilities include reviewing and conducting an inventory of a decedent’s estate, identifying and notifying their creditors of the death, approving or denying creditor claims on the estate, paying any outstanding taxes and filing a return, and distributing assets and property to the decedent’s heirs. The appointed individual also has a fiduciary duty to the estate and the decedent’s heirs.

What to Do When an Executor Doesn’t Act

Ordinarily, the executor or administrator is someone who is believed to be equipped to manage the responsibilities of administering an estate. However, it may be that the designated person is unable to fulfill their duties. When an executor or administrator can’t or won’t complete critical tasks, there may be a way to compel them to act or have them removed from their position.

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If the executor or administrator has not done anything to initiate or effectuate probate for several months, it can be highly problematic. However, it’s important to recognize that probate can be a lengthy and complex process. If the executor is taking a long time to complete a necessary task, it may be because of issues beyond their control. An interested party may be frustrated at how long the administration is taking and unfairly blame the executor.

Executors and administrators tend to be close family members and are often heirs themselves. If you are a relative or know the appointed person, it may be best to touch base with them about your concern. If you are unable to talk to them, you may need to take further action. However, before presenting the issue to the court, it may be helpful to consult with an experienced probate attorney who can assist you in assessing the situation. You and your attorney can review your options and determine if legal intervention is necessary.

Removing the Executor

Under California law, any interested person or heir can petition for the removal of a personal representative or executor. The petitioning party must state the reasons they believe the court should remove the individual.

A personal representative or executor may be removed for any of the following reasons:

  1. They wasted, embezzled, mismanaged, or committed a fraud on the estate, or are about to do so;
  2. They are incapable of properly executing the duties of the office or are otherwise not qualified for appointment as personal representative;
  3. They have wrongfully neglected the estate or have long failed to perform any act as a personal representative;
  4. Removal is otherwise necessary for the protection of the estate or interested persons; or
  5. Any other cause provided by statute.

If you are concerned about how an executor or personal representative is conducting themselves, you should contact an experienced California probate attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Waiting to consult with an attorney could potentially result in mismanaged funds and assets and other damage to your loved one’s estate.

At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are California probate attorneys with the experience you need to navigate the probate process. We can help you evaluate your circumstances and determine the best solutions for your situation. Please contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment today.