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How and when to remove an executor from an estate

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2023 | Estate Planning

One of the most important aspects of estate planning in California is protecting assets for future generations. Since the owner of the assets won’t be around to ensure that their estate is administered according to their wishes, finding the right executor is essential. There might be a snafu, though, if the executor needs to be removed during the probate process.

What is an executor?

An executor is the person charged with filing a will and administering the estate after a person is deceased. So long as this person performs all of their duties in a timely matter and according to California law, the estate can usually avoid probate litigation.

The executor can be a family member, friend, or probate lawyer. The court can also appoint an executor if one has not already been appointed or the current executor has been removed.

According to probate law in California, the executor has up to 30 days to file the will and notify probate court of a death. The time-frame is 40 days for estates valued at under $184,500, which is classified as a small estate under California probate code §§890, 13000. In that case, the executor and heirs can avoid probate altogether unless the will is contested for some reason.

Additionally, the executor has one year from the date they were appointed or the death filed to settle the estate. That deadline is extended to 18 months from date of notice if the executor must file federal estate tax.

Reasons for removing an executor from an estate

There could be several reasons for executor removal. The first and most obvious is if the executor dies.

Other reasons for removing an executor include:

  • Comingling of estate and personal assets
  • Bias against persons named in the will
  • Converting or stealing assets from the estate
  • Failure to administer in a timely manner
  • Failing to maintain accurate records

Of course, there would need to be some proof of these activities, after which any criminal acts of fraud or malfeasance would be investigated and prosecuted. Non-criminal matters would be handled in probate court, which would remove the executor and appoint a new one. Such a process could also be initiated by heirs named in the will.