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Filing a lawsuit against an executor in California

On Behalf of | Aug 17, 2023 | Concord Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog |

Being an executor in California is a noble responsibility. The estate owner entrusts them with the task of ensuring that they help fulfill their last dying wishes. And most of them do just that. However, there are some circumstances where the executor might be negligent in their duties or even act maliciously. In these cases, it may become necessary to sue them to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.

Grounds for suing an executor

The most common reasons that people choose to sue an executor are for either failing to properly manage the estate’s finances or breaching their fiduciary duties. This means that the executor has acted in a way that is not in line with their obligations to the estate and its beneficiaries. This can manifest in the form of:

  • Misappropriating funds
  • Not properly accounting for the estate’s assets
  • Acting in favor of their own interests rather than that of the estate and beneficiaries
  • Making important decisions without consulting the necessary parties involved
  • Fraud or negligence in carrying out their duties.

Options available to sue an executor

The first avenue to consider when suing an executor is the probate court. This is where an executor’s actions are typically overseen, and it is also the court that has the jurisdiction to hold them accountable. The aggrieved party must file a petition detailing the executor’s alleged misconduct. The petition initiates a formal proceeding where the court reviews the allegations and gives the executor an opportunity to respond.

If the court finds the executor has breached their fiduciary duty or acted negligently, it can impose fines, order restitution or, in extreme cases, remove them from their role. There are situations where the court might also ask them to use their own personal funds instead of estate assets to cover their legal fees.

While the role of an executor is paramount in ensuring the smooth execution of a decedent’s will, there can be instances of misconduct, negligence or breach of fiduciary duty. In such cases, you shouldn’t hesitate to take actions that may help protect what’s left. You can start with a simple negotiation or mediation, but if that doesn’t work, you can take the matter to probate court.