Although the person accepting the position agrees to comply with a list of laws and court orders, sometimes the representative falls short for some reason.
If the PR fails to perform the expected duties, then the deceased’s family and beneficiaries can seek help from probate court.
During the first few months of a representative’s term, when this person is learning what is required to administer an estate, the probate court is somewhat lenient. After a period of time, however, if the representative hasn’t fulfilled the required specified duties or followed procedures properly, the person may be removed as personal representative.
A PR can be removed for any of four basic reasons:
- If it’s in the best interest of the estate;
- If the personal representative had lied in the court proceeding leading to that person’s appointment as personal representative;
- If the personal representative disregarded a court order, has become incapable of discharging the duties of being personal representative, has mismanaged the estate, or has failed to perform any duty pertaining to the office of personal representative;
- If it is shown that the personal representative has intentionally disregarded the decedent’s wishes with regard to disposing of the decedent’s remains.
If you find that the PR is not fulfilling the duties of the position, the first thing you need to do is gather evidence. If it concerns the misuse of the estate’s funds, evidence can include documents such as copies of checks written to the personal representative or a copy of the deed showing that the PR transferred the decedents’ house to him or herself.
Evidence needs to be concrete. That is, the court usually does not accept situational evidence or hearsay as evidence to support removal of a PR. An example of hearsay might be a neighbor telling you that the PR said that he or she was going to steal the estate’s money or assets.
Evidence to support the removal of a personal representative can also include:
- The fact that you have not received an inventory of the estate more than 90 days since the personal representative was appointed
- The fact that the estate has been open for more than a year and the personal representative has not filed the required annual accounting.
- The decedent’s house has not been listed for sale a year or more after the appointment of the personal representative.
In our firm, we frequently help families who need to remove personal representatives. It’s usually not a single incident that leads to this: In most cases the personal representative has done between five and 15 things incorrectly.
If you’re a personal representative and need help understanding and performing your duties, we can also help. If you need assistance in removing a personal representative to protect your loved one’s legacy, we can help with that, too.