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What Can a Beneficiary Do When a New Jersey Estate Administrator Fails to Act?

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The Executor or Administrator of an estate in New Jersey accepts, under oath at the county surrogate’s office, that she will be responsible for administering the estate of the decedent, which includes gathering and liquidating assets, paying debts and taxes, filing required court documents, preparing and filing tax returns, and distributing the assets to beneficiaries.   However, county surrogates do not supervise how an executor or administrator carries out the administration of the estate. On occasion, an Administrator or Executor fails to timely carry out their duties. This could be due to negligence such as  failing to file timely tax returns or failing to keep appropriate records, or it could be more intentional misconduct such as misappropriating funds or ignoring instructions in the Will. In either case, if you, as a beneficiary,  are not satisfied with the handling of the estate, you can seek to have the executor or administrator removed and replaced.

In order to remove an executor or administrator who has been appointed by the court, a beneficiary must file a formal complaint for an accounting and seeking removal .

A complaint for Accounting is filed in Superior Court of New Jersey, Probate Part to request an accounting, removal of the current Executor or Administrator and request appointment of a new person to serve as administrator to complete the estate administration.   Such a complaint must be accompanied by a certification from one or more beneficiaries stating the wrong doing accompanied by an order to show cause.   The order to show cause will be signed by the judge and will direct the executor or administrator  to file a written answer to the complaint and appear in court.  This will commence litigation which seeks to compel the administrator or executor to provide an accounting of the estate and which also seeks to have the executor or administrator removed and replaced with another person.

Under New Jersey Law NJSA 3B-14-21 a fiduciary (an executor or administrator) can be removed by the court for the following reasons:

  1. Violation of or refusal to obey a court order or judgment
  2. Embezzlement, wasting, or misapplication of any part of the estate;
  3. Abuse of the trust and confidence reposed in the executor as a fiduciary;
  4. The executor no longer resides in New Jersey and neglects or refuses to proceed with the administration of the estate;
  5. The executor becomes incapacitated; or
  6. If two or more fiduciaries are appointed by the court, one of them fails to cooperate with the other(s) to effectuate proper administration of the estate.

When an executor is removed by the court for breaching her fiduciary duty or violating the law, a beneficiary, in the Complaint, can request that the commission which the fiduciary is entitled to receive as compensation for work performed under NJSA 3B:18-1 et seq., be reduced or eliminated.

If you are the beneficiary of an estate and you are concerned that the administrator or executor is failing to perform her responsibilities in administering the estate, contact McLaughlin & Nardi, LLC by e-mail or calling 973-890-0004.  Our attorneys can assist you in evaluating your situation and what steps you should take.