When Can Minnesota Court Remove the Personal Representative of an Estate?

Probate court hearing form on a desk with a calculator, pen, glasses, mobile phone and digital tablet.

The personal representative of an estate collects and distributes the property of a person who passed away. Most of the time, no issues arise during administration of the estate. But what happens if that person mishandles the estate? In specific circumstances, Minnesota courts have authority to remove the personal representative of an estate.

Reasons for Removal of the Personal Representative of an Estate

A Minnesota statute governs removal of a personal representative. The law requires filing a petition for removal with the probate court.

The law provides that “cause for removal exists” if removal is in the “best interests of the estate” or if the personal representative:

  • Intentionally misrepresented material facts in the appointment proceeding
  • Disregarded a court order
  • Is incapable of discharging his or her duties
  • Mismanaged the estate
  • Failed to perform any duty

Under the statute, the court must consider the compensation and fees of the personal representative, as well as administrative costs, in determining whether removal is in the best interests of the estate.

When a petition presents one of these claims to the court, the petitioner must show through evidence that the basis for removal exists. Successfully petitioning for removal requires demonstrating in court that the situation meets one of the stated requirements.

Most often, proving a case for removal involves showing the court that the personal representative did not perform in accordance with legally required responsibilities. Those duties relate to collecting property of the estate, managing the assets, and distributing the estate to heirs and beneficiaries.

Filing a petition for removal requires assistance from experienced estate litigation attorney. The situation is not one that an heir, beneficiary, or other person should attempt to pursue without legal counsel.

Who Can Petition for Removal of a Minnesota Personal Representative?

The statute provides that anyone “interested in the estate” may file a petition for removal of a personal representative. Minnesota probate law defines that term to include a wide range of individuals, including:

  • Heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors, beneficiaries, and others who have a property right in or claim against the estate of a decedent
  • Persons with priority for appointment as personal representative
  • Fiduciaries representing interested persons

Whether a person has a sufficient interest to file a petition to remove a personal representative is part of the legal analysis an attorney conducts before initiating the action.

Should You File a Petition to Remove a Personal Representative?

During the time following the death of a loved one, it is common for grief and emotions to affect decision-making and intensify differences among family members over an estate. Deciding whether to pursue removal of a personal representative is a very serious decision that can have wide-ranging implications. That decision should be made only with assistance from a knowledgeable Minnesota probate litigation attorney.

Actions that make family members unhappy or dissatisfied may not rise to the level that supports a court case under Minnesota law. Determining whether a personal representative’s conduct meets the statutory reasons for removal involves a complex process.

To start the process, the estate litigation attorney gathers documentary and testimonial evidence relating to the circumstances of the case. After collecting and reviewing all the facts, the lawyer makes a legal analysis to determine whether the basis for a petition exists.

If a petition is filed, the attorney for the petitioner must prove the claims in a court hearing. Witnesses testify. Attorneys submit documentary evidence. Lawyers for both sides present their positions to the judge, in terms of both the facts and the law that applies to the case. Ultimately, the probate court judge draws factual conclusions and rules on the removal request.  

Court cases involving administration of an estate often involve complicated family relationships, which add a dimension beyond just the factual and legal issues of the situation. There can be a lot at stake, including the future of relationships between family members. Before you consider filing a petition to remove a personal representative — or think about initiating a different type of legal action involving your loved one’s estate — there are several important things to keep in mind. We discuss them in our blog post, 5 Things To Consider Before Suing a Family Member Over an Estate Dispute.

Talk With an Experienced Twin Cities Probate and Estate Litigation Attorney

In my practice at the Dave Burns Law Office, I assist clients with all types of estate litigation, including issues relating to conduct of the personal representative of an estate.

I focus my practice on the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.  If you would like to discuss a situation involving a matter that may require asking the court to remove the personal representative of an estate, please contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by email at dave@daveburnslaw.com.  I welcome inquiries from clients and referring attorneys throughout the State of Minnesota.

Categories: Litigation, Probate

The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer