Removal of an Executor of a Deceased Estate

An executor is a person appointed to administer a deceased estate. In most cases they are lawyers registered as estates administrators. There are two ways in which an executor can be appointed to administer a deceased estate. That is, by way of nomination in a will and by appointment by the Master of the High Court where the deceased dies without a will.

An executor holds a position of trust and where such trust has been breached by failure to administer an estate he or she may be removed from such position. An executor has a fiduciary duty towards the estate hence he or she must act in a manner that safeguards and protects the estate and interests of the beneficiaries.

A chamber application is made to the High Court by the Master of the High Court for the removal of the executor. The court will not lightly interfere with the duties of an executor, except in situations where it is clearly established that the executor is grossly negligent in performing his or her duties. The conduct of the executor must be detrimental to the effects of the estate. The conduct complained of must be of such serious degree that if the executor is allowed to continue with the administration of the estate, the estate would not be protected and there will be further prejudice to the interests of the beneficiaries. The complaints against the conduct of the executor are raised to the Master who then applies to the High Court for the removal of the executor.

Other instances when an executor can be removed from such a position are as follows;

  • When the executor was not qualified for appointment to such office or the appointment was illegal.
  • When executor is mentally or physically incapable of performing his or her duties satisfactorily.
  • When executor is no longer suitable to hold such office in the opinion of the Master.

When an executor is removed from office, the Master will revoke any letters of administration or any confirmation granted to that person. The executor will however remain liable to account for his or her administration and management of the estate prior to his or her removal.

This article is for general information purposes only, legal advice must be sought in any aspect of the law.

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