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Problems with Executors or Administrators?

View profile for Janet Moreton
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Janet Moreton, a speci​alist solicitor in disputed probate – gives some sound, practical advice.

What if you are a beneficiary under an Estate or Will, and are becoming frustrated at the time the Executor or Administrator is taking to deal with the Estate, or believe they are not taking any action at all.

Even worse, what if you have suspicions about the actions of the Executor or Administrator and feel that they are not acting in the best interests of the Estate, or they appear to be acting in a dishonest manner and for their own benefit?

What can you do?

It’s possible to take action to progress matters or to challenge or even remove the Executors or Administrators, but what you can actually do, and the way you do it,  depends on what has been done so far in administering the Estate (if anything).

If no Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration has been obtained

If someone appointed as an Executor under a Will  takes no action at all and decides that they don’t want the responsibility, they can renounce their appointment, as long as they haven’t “inter‑meddled” in the Estate.  Examples of inter-meddling include taking steps to collect in the Deceased’s assets, paying the Deceased’s liabilities or paying any sums due to beneficiaries.  Arranging the funeral and making sure the Deceased’s house is secure is not generally considered to be inter-meddling.

You can’t force an Executor or Administrator to renounce their appointment, but you can still take action if they haven’t renounced, but haven’t taken any positive steps.  If they’ve accepted the role to administer the Estate, but fail to make any progress, you can issue a Citation against them to force them to either progress the administration or step aside.  A Citation is an instruction issued by the Probate Registry to either accept or refuse to act under the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration and if they fail to do so, they will be removed and replaced.

If a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration has been obtained

Once the Executor or Administrator has been appointed, and a Grant issued naming them to deal with the Estate, they can only be removed by order of the court.

The Court will always be reluctant to remove an Executor appointed under a Will, because it does not want to interfere with the wishes of the Deceased.  Complaints that the Executor is not returning calls or replying to emails, or not administering the Estate as quickly as a beneficiary would like or expect, or that there has been some disagreement with the Executor is unlikely to be sufficient reason for the Executor to be removed.  Generally, it has to be more far reaching and detrimental to the Estate and the Beneficiaries.

As a general rule, the court will only remove an Executor if:

  1. They can no longer perform their duties – so if it becomes clear the Executor  or Administrator has some physical or mental disability preventing him or her from performing their duties to administer the Estate;  or
     
  2. They are unsuitable for the position –  but how do you decide if they are unsuitable?   

This is a difficult question to answer.

Generally, there needs to be a failure or activity by the Executor which could be regarded as serious misconduct, which goes to the root of the administration, to justify the Court making an order for removal

Serious Misconduct could include:

  • Theft of money or other assets from the Estate
     
  • Mismanaging or causing loss or damaging the Estate’s assets
     
  • Failing to keep proper accounting records

If you believe the Executor has, by acts or omissions, caused the Estate to suffer loss and/or there has been mismanagement of the Estate’s Assets; speak to one of our specialist  solicitors about making an application to the High Court under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985.

Talbots Law’s Trusts & Estates team are always on hand to discuss any issues relating to wills and probate, and you can contact our disputed probate specialists by emailing Janet Moreton  or call us on 0800 188 1500 today to find out how we can help you.

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