Disqualified Executor Sues His Mother’s Estate

January 20, 2010 | Erin Herbold


A son challenged his disqualification as a nominated executor of his mother’s estate.  The mother passed away in Feb. 2009 appointing her son as the executor. However, before she died, the son’s relationship with his mother and his siblings was strained to the point that he did not even attend her funeral. At trial, the court found that while the son was capable of carrying out his duties as executor, the fact that he didn’t communicate with his siblings who were also beneficiaries under the will would cause the estate to be run inefficiently.  For obvious reasons, the trial court disqualified the son.  Inexplicably, the son appealed and the appellate court slam-dunked him.

On appeal, the son claimed that the trial court improperly disqualified him as executor, because he was not “unsuitable” to act as executor despite the fact that he didn’t communicate with his family and didn’t even pay any final respects to his mother. The appellate court opined that unsuitability under Iowa Code §633.63(1) is “based upon grounds for believing that an executor’s continuance in office will be likely to render the execution of the will or the administration of the estate difficult, ineffective, or unduly protracted.”  That clearly was the case, and the court cited prior case law stating that unwarranted hostility between the executor and beneficiaries is enough to support removal. Thus, the dynamics of the relationship between the siblings made it clear that there was absolutely no way for the brother to serve as executor without prompting conflict. In re Estate of Denzler, No. 9-939/09-0665, 2009 Iowa App. LEXIS 1679 (Iowa Ct. App., Dec. 30, 2009).