Pennsylvania testators normally name an executor in their wills. However, if that person is unable to fulfill that role, a probate judge may name a temporary administrator. Typically, an order naming the temporary administrator will outline the specific powers that he or she has. If an individual takes actions that aren’t consistent with his or her authority, a judge may remove that person from this role.

Furthermore, the temporary administrator has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of an estate. If that person does not act in an heir’s best interests, it may be possible for a beneficiary to file a petition to have that person removed. Ideally, individuals will take action to address their concerns as quickly as possible. Acting in a timely manner may prevent assets from being sold or bank accounts from being liquidated.

It is also a good idea for beneficiaries to speak with the temporary administrator to determine why certain actions were taken. In some cases, individuals may discover that the estate ran out of money because their loved one was insolvent as opposed to incompetence on behalf of the administrator. If a judge determines that an administrator did waste an estate’s funds, that person may be required to pay a surcharge or be subject to other sanctions.

Ideally, individuals will name alternate estate executors as part of the estate planning process. They may also want to consider keeping assets in a trust as opposed to using just a will to manage their property. By putting items in a trust, they are held outside of an estate, which means that they don’t need to go through probate. This may minimize the chances that assets are squandered or mismanaged by others prior to being transferred to a beneficiary, although in Pennsylvania avoiding probate is not necessarily the best course of action.  A thorough consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney can help answer your questions and give you peace of mind that your affairs will be handled the way you want.