Can a convicted felon be executor?

Q: My brother wants to be executor of my mom’s estate. He’s a criminal and I won’t stand for that. He was convicted in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and served a little time.

A: Much to your chagrin, yes. Section 3156 of the PA Probate Estates and Fiduciary Code excludes those charged with homicide but does not exclude someone with a felony conviction.

  1. Persons not qualified. Section 3156 reads as follows:
    No person shall be qualified to serve as a personal representative who is:
    (1) Under 18 years of age.
    (2) A corporation not authorized to act as fiduciary in the Commonwealth.
    (3) A person, other than an executor designated by name or description in the will, found by the register to be unfit to be entrusted with the administration of the estate.
    (4) The nominee of any beneficiary, legatee or person having any interest whatsoever, when such beneficiary, legatee or person is a citizen or resident of any country outside the territorial limits or possessions of the United States, when it shall appear doubtful to the register that in the distribution of the estate any such person will have the actual benefit, use, enjoyment or control of the money or other property representing his share or interest therein.
    (5) Charged, whether by indictment, information or otherwise, by the United States, the Commonwealth or any of the several states, with voluntary manslaughter or homicide, except homicide by vehicle, in connection with a decedent’s death unless and until the charge is withdrawn, dismissed or a verdict of not guilty is returned.

Now, if you feel that this person is otherwise not qualified, you can object to appointment by filing a Petition for Rule to Show Cause with the Orphan’s Court. If you feel the person is dishonest you may be able to tie his criminal history in with other instances of conduct. It may help if the crimes were those of crimin falsi, Latin for crimes of dishonesty. If you want to challenge his or her appointment, I suggest consulting with a lawyer.

If you feel like this issue relates to you, or a problem that you are experiencing, please contact me so that we can discuss your situation.