Can an estate’s beneficiaries remove the personal representative?

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2024 | PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION - Estate Administration

Being the personal representative (widely also known as the executor) of someone’s estate can be a tough and often thankless job. Whether you were named to the position by the deceased in their will or appointed by a probate court, it may feel like no one is happy with the job you’re doing.

Even if the deceased was a family member, that doesn’t necessarily prevent others in the family from making your job more difficult – especially if they think they should have been named instead or there are long-standing intrafamily conflicts.

You may have heirs and other beneficiaries threatening to get you removed from the position even though you’re doing the best you can. It’s important to understand that a personal representative can only be removed for specified types of misconduct or an overall failure to do their job. Further, only a probate judge can remove a personal representative. Often, it’s at the request of one or more beneficiaries, but judges can also determine on their own that removal is warranted.

Reasons for removal under Texas law

State laws around the removal of personal representatives and other estate administrators vary, but generally they all require some type of breach of fiduciary duty. Here in Texas, as long as the named personal representative meets the minimum requirements of being at least 18 years old and of sound mind, they can only be removed for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They’re guilty of “gross misconduct or mismanagement in the performance of any duties.”
  • They’ve “misapplied, embezzled, or removed from the state” property that belongs to the estate.
  • They haven’t complied with a court order.
  • They’re found be “incapable of properly performing any duties of trust.”

Further, if a personal representative hasn’t settled the estate within three years of a person’s death (and haven’t gotten an extension from the probate court), they can be removed for that reason.

Administering someone’s estate – even if it’s a relatively simple one – can be a daunting job. If you’ve been tasked with that job, you have the right to get any professional guidance you need to deal with real estate, finances, taxes and more. Getting sound legal guidance early in the process can also help you avoid legitimate conflicts with beneficiaries and the probate court.