Under New Jersey law, an executor or a trustee is considered a fiduciary and can be removed for misconduct or acting counter to a beneficiary’s best interests. The courts are reluctant to do so, however, and removing the fiduciary of a will or trust can be an expensive undertaking. For these reasons, beneficiaries who have concerns about potential fiduciary abuse should consult with an experienced estate removal attorney to consider their options for removing executors or trustees.
Located in Morristown, E.A. Goodman Law, LLC regularly represents beneficiaries of trusts and estates throughout New Jersey. If you believe that an executor or trustee has been negligent in carrying out his or her duties, you need the informed representation we provide. Although disputes between a fiduciary and beneficiaries are often resolved more effectively through mediation, it is possible to take legal action to remove and replace an executor or trustee.
When you consult with us, we will provide you with trustworthy advice on whether a removal proceeding is in your best interests and work to protect your beneficiary rights. Please contact our office today for a consultation with one of our experienced trust and estate removal attorneys.
Reasons for the Removal of Executors or Trustees in New Jersey
Executors and trustees can be negligent in carrying out their duties for a variety of reasons, but the court requires sufficient evidence in the form of documents and testimony to remove a fiduciary. It takes an experienced estate removal lawyer to collect the necessary evidence, including:
- Testimony of expert witnesses (e.g. accountants, financial planners)
- Witness interviews
- Subpoenaed trust and estate documents
Judges in New Jersey take removal of fiduciaries seriously, however, and will only accept evidence that is presented according to the state’s exacting rules of evidence. Moreover, executors and trustees can raise objections and use estate funds to cover their legal costs. Because a protracted litigation can become costly and deplete the estate assets, it is crucial to work with an attorney experienced in the removal of executors and trustees.
It is important to know that a fiduciary cannot be removed merely because you are dissatisfied with his or her handling of the estate or trust. The courts have held that there must be clear and definite proof of fraud, gross carelessness or “indifference” (e.g. neglecting the estate, not acting as a prudent investor, causing financial losses).
While no two cases are the same, some common reasons for removal of executors and trustees include:
- Failure to comply with the terms of a will or trust
- Failure to cooperate with a beneficiary or interested party
- Neglect or mismanagement of estate/trust assets
- Misappropriation of funds
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Undue influence
- Conflict of interest
- Executor’s failure to keep appropriate records
- Trustee’s failure to provide a timely accounting
- Failure to file timely tax returns
- Failure to act
- Excessive fees and expenses
- Insolvency or unfitness of the fiduciary
- Incapacity of the fiduciary
If the judge finds that there are grounds for removal, the judge can order the fiduciary’s removal and replace him or her with a third party. Additionally, an executor who causes an estate financial loss, or a trustee who fails to preserve the trust assets, can be surcharged for damages.
How the Estate Removal Attorneys at E.A. Goodman Law, LLC Can Help
The courts typically favor duly appointed executors and trustees and will not remove a fiduciary unless you can meet the burden of proof. Therefore, we often recommend seeking a negotiated settlement that requires the fiduciary to alter his/her behavior and compensate you for any damages.
If litigation becomes necessary, we will collect and present the evidence so the judge can properly rule for the expedient removal of the executor or trustee. Above all, we will always put your best interests first and work to protect your beneficiary rights.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Estate Removal Attorneys
If you have concerns about potential misconduct by an executor, trustee, or another fiduciary, such as an agent under a power of attorney, turn to E.A. Goodman Law, LLC. We can help you avoid the pitfalls of an estate removal proceeding by providing you with informed representation and dependable service.
When you consult with us, we will take the time to explain your beneficiary rights and the estate removal process. Well-versed in the complex estate laws and the applicable rules of evidence, we will leverage our negotiating skills and trial experience to achieve the best outcome for you.
Our legal team is highly regarded for their knowledge and professionalism by peers and clients alike and will fight to protect your interests in or out of the courtroom. Please contact our office today to discuss your case with one of our experienced estate removal attorneys.