When could a Pennsylvania personal representative face removal?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Probate

The personal representative of a Pennsylvania estate is responsible for a variety of tasks. They have to present estate planning documents to the probate courts, communicate with creditors and manage estate assets before they distribute them to beneficiaries. The personal representative of an estate may receive a small amount of compensation in return for the services that they provide, and they can also feel proud about how they have carried out someone’s final wishes.

Most personal representatives do their best to follow someone’s estate planning instructions and comply with Pennsylvania state law. However, some people might abuse the authority that the probate courts grant them during estate administration. Sometimes, the beneficiaries of an estate or the surviving family members of the deceased recognize that the personal representative has not performed their job appropriately and may seek to remove them from their position.

When might the Pennsylvania probate courts potentially agree that the removal of a representative is an appropriate response to what has occurred so far during estate administration?

When they have failed to act

Some people who accept the role of personal representative do not have the time to actually fulfill their responsibilities. Others might procrastinate or fail in their responsibilities due to a lack of organization. When a representative hasn’t taken crucial steps in the estate administration process, those with an interest in the estate may have grounds to ask the courts to remove the representative.

When they cannot fulfill obligations

Some people would happily fulfill their responsibilities as the personal representative of an estate if they had the capability to do so. Physical and mental health challenges could lead to someone’s hospitalization or incapacitation. The courts can also remove someone convicted of voluntary manslaughter or homicide. When a personal representative is not capable of fulfilling their obligations due to health challenges, incarceration or incapacitation, that could warrant their removal.

When they have failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty

The individual administering an estate has an obligation to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Any significant violation of that fiduciary duty could warrant someone’s removal from their position. In cases involving blatant theft from an estate and other forms of egregious misconduct, it is possible to remove the personal representative and possibly even hold them accountable for their misconduct through civil litigation.

Personal representatives who understand the types of mistakes that could lead to their removal can make better choices about how they handle their responsibilities. Those with an interest in estate who feel concerned about a representative’s actions or lack thereof may need to talk about their worries about estate administration with someone familiar with Pennsylvania probate statutes. Taking legal action is sometimes necessary to preserve someone’s legacy and uphold their final wishes.