Probate: Removal of a Personal Representative

I’ve written about the Fiduciary Duties of a Trustee. Those duties apply in the contexts of trust administration. In the case of estate administration in probate, a personal representative of a decedent’s estate has several obligations. Among the most important of these responsibilities is the duty to administer the estate efficiently and expeditiously, meeting several deadlines along the way (such as a filing of a complete inventory of the estate 30 days after the letters testamentary or letters of administration  have been granted).
In the court’s discretion, the personal representative may have to deposit a bond as surety to “guarantee” that there is a faithful administration of the estate. A court can also order that supervised administration of the estate be carried out if it is extra concerned.
Unfortunately, it is not always the case that a personal representative does the job well. In such cases, Missouri law provides a remedy. RSMo 473.140 allows for the removal of a personal representative —
If any personal representative becomes mentally incapacitated or is convicted of a felony or other infamous crime, or becomes an habitual drunkard, or in any manner incapable or unsuitable to execute the trust reposed in him, or fails to discharge his official duties, or wastes or mismanages the estate, or acts so as to endanger any corepresentative, or fails to answer any citation and attachment to make settlement, the court, upon its own motion, or upon complaint in writing made by any person interested supported by affidavit, after notice to the personal representative, and to the attorney of record, if any, of any personal representative who cannot be served with notice in this state, shall hear the matter and may revoke the letters granted.
Not all is lost, then, when a personal representative is completely incompetent in his or her duties. While it will ultimately rest on the court’s discretion, it may be a wise idea to petition for removal of an ineffective personal representative (do know though that this will certainly result in increased costs against the probate estate).

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