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Pennsylvania Probate: Removal of Personal Representative Under PA Estates and Fiduciary Codepage item

Pennsylvania Probate: What Does It Take To Have An Executor or Trustee Removed Under Pennsylvania Probate Rules?

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Serving as an executor or trustee requires certain qualities.  These fiduciaries must possess undivided loyalty to the beneficiaries and act in the best interests of such beneficiaries.  Oftentimes the decedent has named an untrustworthy and in some cases a dishonest executor or trustee.  Such designations are made simply out of love or that the relative is the oldest family member.  Problems quickly arise in these situations to the point where the estate or trust is being mismanaged or, in the worse case scenario, assets are being stolen from the estate or trust.  In these and other situations and others detailed below, an executor or trustee can be removed by the court.  The following provides insight as to the grounds for removal under the Pennsylvania Estates and Fiduciary Code, Section 3182.  Section 3182 provides that the court has the exclusive power to remove a trustee or executor when he or she: 

1. Wastes Or Mismanages The Estate or Trust

This is a fundamental reason for removal.  The fiduciaries must operate an estate and trust with prudence and care.  Waste or mismanagement whether intentional or unintentional can support removal.   

2. Is or is likely to become insolvent

The executor must be financially secure.  If he is insolvent he cannot continue to serve.  Even if he is likely to become insolvent then grounds exist for his removal.  

3. Has failed to perform any duty imposed by law

The executor and trustee must follow the law without deviation.  This is why it is always prudent to retain estate or tax counsel to assist in the administration of estates and trusts.  

4. Has become incapacitated to discharge the duties of his office because of sickness or physical or mental incapacity and his incapacity is likely to continue to the injury of the estate or trust

Here the incapacity must be of the type that prevents that fiduciary from adequately serving as executor or trustee.  So if the incapacity is not signifcant or is of a short duration grounds for removal may not exist.  

5. Has removed from the Commonwealth or has ceased to have a known place of residence therein, without furnishing such security or additional security as the court shall direct

Here the executor or trustee cannot leave Pennsylvania and continue to serve until the court has ruled on what is adequate security.  If he does so without furnishing such bond or other security required, then grounds for removal exist.

6. Has been charged with voluntary manslaughter or homicide, except homicide by vehicle, provided that the removal shall not occur on these grounds if the charge has been dismissed, withdrawn or terminated by a verdict of not guilty

It seems pretty obvious that these type of criminal convictions would call for the removal of a fiduciary position such as executor and trustee that call for a high level of trust, fidelity and honor.

7. When, for any other reason, the interests of the estate or trust are likely to be jeopardized by his continuance in office

This is sort of an open ended category that is available if the other categories cannot be met but the behavorior of the executor or trustee has jeopardized or will jeopardize the estate or trust assets.

Finally, it should be noted that the grounds for removal depend on the facts present in each particular case.  As a result, it is often hard to predict how a judge may rule in these matters.  However, having compelling and significant evidence and strong witnesses will go a long way in being successful in these matters.

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