How to Discharge an Estate Executor

Updated March 16, 2017

The personal representative of an estate, also known as the executor, stands in place of the deceased and helps to administer his affairs. This may involve paying creditors, compiling an inventory of assets and distributing property. If the executor neglects his duties or commits acts that harm the beneficiaries and heirs -- such as keeping money for him or otherwise misappropriating the deceased assets -- the heirs may need to remove the executor by petitioning the court.

Determine if grounds for removal exist. Cause for removal generally requires some degree of fault on the part of the executor. For example, there may be cause for removal if the executor embezzled funds or intentionally refused to complete his duties as the estate's personal representative.

Gather evidence and choose a successor. You must be able to show facts that warrant the executor's discharge. Start gathering witnesses. Look for other evidence, such as receipts. Additionally, the court must appoint a new personal representative if the current one is discharged; consider who you want the replacement to be.

Prepare the necessary motions and affidavits and file them with the probate court. In Washington, for example, an heir or beneficiary must file a "Petition for Orders to Issue Citation, Removing Personal Representative & Appointing Successor Representative" form.

Arrange for a process server to deliver copies of the petitions and motions for removal to the executor.

Appear at the hearing and argue your case to the judge.


Seeking the removal of an executor is a complicated legal task. Readers must be able to navigate the legal system, which involves knowing the rules and procedures for calling witnesses and presenting evidence, among other things. Because of the adversarial nature of the proceedings, you may need an attorney to litigate the matter on your behalf.

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About the Author

Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.