Under New Jersey Probate Law, when someone dies testate (has a will),that will will appoint an executor.  The job of the executor is very important and comes with numerous responsibilities.  These obligations include probating the will, liquidating assets (selling a home or jewelery), pay all encumbrances and taxes as well as take care of all other court duties.  The executor may hire a lawyer to help make the proper decisions, but let’s face it, it’s a tough job that not every one can handle or just isn’t willing to do so.

Once the executor is declared, the court or surrogate’s office are not responsible for making sure the will is probated properly or in a timely manner.  If you are not happy with the way the executor is handling their duties because they are not following the instruction set forth by the will,you can, under New Jersey Probate Law, have an attorney file a complaint in Superior Court.  This complaint is called the Complaint for Accounting.  The complaint for accounting is filed to request the removal of the current executor and asks the court to assign a new person as an administrator of the will.

Removal is not easy in any sense of the word.  The beneficiaries must be able to prove that serious wrongdoing has occurred before the court will rule to replace the executor.  Such acts as moving to slowly, refusing to give out information or just being uncooperative are not grounds for removal. In successful removals, the beneficiaries where able to convince the court that the executor was incapable of performing his/her duties, was unsuitable for the position or has become disqualified.

Incapable: Must prove that the executor has some mental or physical illness that will prevent them from successfully acting in the role of an executor.

Disqualified:
This being the easiest to prove.  If the executor has committed a crime since being appointed and has gone to jail for the crime, then they are no longer eligible to be an executor.

Unsuitable: Because of the circumstantial evidence that must be interpreted, this is the most challenging to prove.  This involves either a conflict of interest or some form of serious misconduct.  Other misconduct, which may be grounds for removal must be fairly serious and actually damaging or threatening to damage the estate. Examples of such behavior might be:

  • Being a Drunk
  • Stealing from the estate
  • Not filing an inventory or accounting
  • Refusing to obey a court order
  • Neglecting to perform duties as executor

In conclusion you must have great cause in order to pursue a removal of an executor.  Costs are high and the risk of alienating everyone is great.  Money can easily come between family, so please exhaust all your options first before considering an executor removal.

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