Texas Supreme Court: It is much easier to disqualify than remove an independent executor
In a recent opinion, the Texas Supreme Court considered an effort to remove an independent executor. The decedent's brother was appointed the independent executor of decedent's estate. The decedent's former wife attempted to remove the brother as executor after a dispute arose regarding the distribution of certain property and she claimed the executor had a conflict of interest since he had an ownership interest in the disputed property. The trial court rejected the effort to remove the executor. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision. The Court noted that Section 78 of the Texas Probate Code sets out five different bases for disqualification of a would-be executor, including “[a] person whom the court finds unsuitable.” By contrast, Section 149c lists six specific grounds for removal of an executor, with no broad "unsuitability" standard giving a court broad discretion for removal. The Supreme Court rejected the former wife's claim that the executor committed gross mismanagement or misapplied estate property. The Court noted the dispute arose from a simple good-faith disagreement and rejected the notion that an executor with a potential conflict of interest should be removed.