A comprehensive estate plan includes a last will and testament and frequently one or more trusts. In addition to drafting the terms of these legal documents, an individual must also be designated to ensure the wishes and provisions provided therein are followed and carried out. When discussing a will, this individual is referred to as an executor. In relation to a trust, the individual tasked with enforcing the terms of the trust is called a trustee.
According to Cornell University Law School, a "fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party's interests." Both an executor and trustee have a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and carry out the express wishes of the decedent's will or trust. In some cases, however, individuals who are given this important job fail to meet the requirements of the position.
Proving that an executor or trustee has breached their fiduciary duty is therefore key to any legal action seeking their removal. Personality clashes or a basic dislike of an executor or trustee is not sufficient to enforce their removal, nor is a family member's or beneficiary's desire to manage the assets themselves.
Individuals who believe that an executor or trustee has breached their fiduciary duty or somehow acted outside the terms of their responsibilities may take legal action to have an executor or trustee removed.
Legal grounds for seeking the removal of an executor or trustee include:
• Inability to carry out terms of a will or trust
• Conflict of interest
Individuals who are interested in learning more about how to remove an executor or trustee would be wise to discuss their specific case with an attorney who handles probate litigation matters.