Removal of estate executors can be difficult and require many hours of work. Not only does a petition need to be filed with the court, but the executor being removed must be notified, which often results in a legal battle. Things can become even more complicated when long-lost relatives appear. The following case discusses how the heirs of an estate may seek to remove the executor.
George Fisher died in a car accident. He was not married and had no surviving parents at the time of his death. However, there was a man by the name of Shawn Poullard (Poullard) who claimed to be Mr. Fisher’s son. This posed an issue for Harry Fisher, Mr. Fisher’s uncle and the executor of his estate.
In 2015, Poullard, and a few other relatives, reached an agreement that gave Pollard ownership of some property within Mr. Fisher’s estate and ordered Harry Fisher, as executor, to pay Poullard from a lawsuit from Mr. Fisher’s car accident. The judgment also dismissed any claims the parties had amongst themselves with prejudice.
In January 2017, Poullard sought the removal of Harry Fisher as executor by filing a motion. This petition also attempted to appoint Poullard as the executor. Poullard claimed Fisher failed to file specific paperwork required to prove George Fisher’s death under La. Civ. Code. arts. 54, and did not have sufficient evidence to prove the death of Mr. Fisher. Poullard argued the court should remove Fisher should as executor because he didn’t prove that George Fisher was deceased when he sought to be appointed executor as required by La.Civ. Code article. 55 and La.Civ. Code article 56.
On March 10, 2017, the district court heard the case. The court disagreed with Poullard’s contentions noting that a declaration of death under La. Civ. Code. arts. 54, et. seq. is only needed when a person is missing for a period exceeding five years and may be presumed dead. In this case, it was known that Mr. Fisher had died in a car accident. Therefore, the district court concluded that Harry Fisher did not have to file a declaration of death because there was enough proof of Mr. Fisher’s death. Poullard’s petition was subsequently dismissed. Poullard appealed with not much luck.
The appellate court affirmed that Mr. Fisher’s death was not in question. It was obviously known that he died in a car accident. Therefore, the district court correctly concluded that Fisher was not required to file paperwork to prove the death of George Fisher, which would have been unnecessary in this case. The information filed with Harry Fisher’s petition to be appointed executor adequately confirmed Mr. Fisher’s death.
The district court’s decision to deny Poullard’s petition to remove Harry Fisher as executor of George Fisher’s estate was upheld. When applying Louisiana law to failure to file a declaration of death under La.Civ. Code. arts. 54, et. seq., the deceased must have been missing for five or more years. Thus, the district court correctly applied the Louisiana Civil Code and found that Harry Fisher didn’t need to file a declaration of death. Further, the appeals court held that Poullard didn’t provide evidence or grounds under La. Code Civ.P. art. 3182 for the removal of Fisher as executor.
Estate planning can be messy, especially when a long-lost relative emerges seemingly from nowhere. Getting an experienced attorney to guide you through the confusing process of estate executors can be vital to your cases’ success.
Additional Sources: Succession of George Fisher
Written by Berniard Law Firm Writer: T.J. Reinhardt
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