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Can you remove the executor of a deceased estate?

“My mother recently passed away and in her will she appointed her bank as the executor of her estate. It’s now been months and the bank has made no progress with the administration of the estate. I would administer the estate, but the bank refuses to allow me to take over. Can I have the bank removed as the executor of the estate?”

It is possible to have an executor removed from an estate, however, the process will depend on how far the estate has progressed.  You could ask the executor to renounce, which means they give up their right to act as executor, but they are under no obligation to do so. An executor cannot renounce if they have started to administer the estate. 

If the executor has started to administer the estate, your first course of action would be to write to them and ask them to provide an account of the administration of the estate.  If you are still not happy, you will need to ask the High Court to remove the executor.

In considering the removal of an executor, the court has held that mere hostility or friction between the executor and the beneficiaries is not a reason for an executor to be removed.  In fact, you, as a beneficiary, would need to prove serious misconduct on the part of the executor before the court will remove them. 

The court must be satisfied that it is undesirable for the executor to continue acting as executor and has the power to terminate their appointment and appoint a substitute personal representative.

In a recent case where beneficiaries applied to the court for the removal of an executor because they were not happy with his conduct, the court confirmed that bad relations between the parties and the executor’s inefficiency did not warrant his removal. The court also took into serious consideration the fact that the executor had been appointed by the testator, therefore upholding the doctrine of testamentary freedom, and the costs of removing and replacing the executor. 

In view of the difficulty to remove an executor, the law provides other remedies for beneficiaries.  Such remedies include for example, applying to the Probate Registry for a notice or citation directing the executor to take probate, accept or refuse a grant or propound a will.

Disputes concerning Probate and the administration of estates are complex. Contact us today on 023 92 296296 to speak to one of our specialists.

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