An executor or personal representative can be nominated to serve in the deceased person’s will, however, if there is no Will, a court-appointed estate administrator or personal representative will be appointed by a probate court. The latter can sometimes lead to tensions amongst heirs who disagree with the court’s decision. So, one of the questions we hear often is, “Can beneficiaries object to an estate administrator?” But before we dive into that, let’s take a look at how exactly the court chooses an estate administrator.
Maryland Laws Governing Estate Administrators
If the deceased doesn’t have a will, the property will go to the decedent’s relatives, according to Maryland Law (Md. Code, Estates and Trusts §§ 3-101 to 3-112). There is also a clear line of succession when determining an estate administrator.
- The personal representatives named in a will admitted to probate;
- The personal representatives nominated in accordance with a power conferred in a will admitted to probate;
- The surviving spouse and children of an intestate decedent, or the surviving spouse of a testate decedent;
- The residuary legatees;
- The children of a testate decedent who are entitled to share in the estate;
- The grandchildren of the decedent who are entitled to share in the estate;
- Subject to §§ 3-111 and 3-112 of this article, the parents of the decedent who are entitled to share in the estate;
- The brothers and sisters of the decedent who are entitled to share in the estate;
- Other relations of the decedent who apply for administration;
- The largest creditor of the decedent who applies for administration;
- Any other person having a pecuniary interest in the proper administration of the estate of the decedent who applies for administration; or
- Any other person.
When the Register of Wills or Orphans’ Court appoints an administrator of the estate, it grants the representative Letters of Administration, which empower the representative to distribute the assets in the estate. After this, the estate administrator must complete the remaining steps to manage the estate, while also meeting several deadlines under Maryland law throughout the process.
So, what happens when beneficiaries object to an estate administrator appointed by the court? For example, the deceased’s widow is appointed, but the deceased’s children do not feel that she has their late father’s best interests at heart. What is their legal course of action?
Can Beneficiaries Object to an Estate Administrator?
The short answer is yes – with cause. If an heir feels the court-appointed estate administrator has failed to perform their fiduciary duties, they have a legal right to object. The heir can file a petition asking the court to remove the current administrator and appoint a new one. In this case, a hearing would be held to listen to both sides. Then, the court would determine whether or not the estate administrator is complying with their assigned duties or whether they need to be removed, at which point a new personal representative would be appointed. However, the disqualification and removal of an estate administrator during probate requires the dissatisfied beneficiary to prove by clear and convincing evidence the existence of a substantial conflict of interest and/or other disqualifying reasons or the significant potential for such an event. The court has the authority to remove an estate administrator where it determines such an action is warranted to “to protect the estate/trust against possible future jeopardy”.
Any beneficiary who suspects that an estate administrator is not performing their fiduciary duty should seek the counsel of an experienced Estate & Trust Administration attorney as soon as possible.
Consult an Experienced Estate & Trust Administration Attorney if You Have Further Questions
PathFinder Law Group is an estate planning law firm in Towson, Maryland with over 15 years of experience. Our team provides legal guidance that comes from the heart and our solutions are tailored to fit your individual needs. We represent our clients, trustees, personal representatives, and agents in estate and trust administration. To contact PathFinder Law Group about your Estate Administration needs, please complete our Contact Us form, call (443) 579-4529 or email email@example.com. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.