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Problematic Personal Representatives – Executors who aren’t doing their job


Being an executor of someone’s will comes with a lot more responsibility than many people think. From administering an estate to accounting to all of the beneficiaries, not to mention avoiding slip ups, it can be a daunting task.

It is therefore unsurprising that some may dawdle, or even refuse to do the job at all.

The majority of executors who don’t want the job have a couple of options open to them. If there are other executors who are willing to act, they can take a more passive role. Usually, the active executors will apply for the Grant of Probate and “power is reserved” to the passive executor, meaning that if he changes his mind he can apply for a Grant of Probate in his own name.

Alternatively, if the executor doesn’t want to get involved from the start, he can “renounce”, which involves signing a deed to confirm his resignation from the post.

If the executor isn’t willing to do his job, but won’t co-operate either with renunciation or to have power reserved, then it may be necessary to apply to the Probate Registry to have them removed or replaced. The Registrar will need to be persuaded that there are special circumstances to warrant taking such action.

Things become a little trickier once a Grant of Probate is obtained and the executor becomes known as a “Personal Representative” – they’ve accepted the job and now have the power to do it. Once the Grant of Probate arrives this is of course the time for action, not inaction. So begins the real work of collecting all of the assets of the estate, paying its liabilities, preparing estate accounts and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will.

The solution to delay may be found by writing to the Personal Representative to remind them that they have a job to do and that they are in a fiduciary position, meaning that they must put their duties under the will and to the beneficiaries ahead of their own agenda and act in their best interests at all times.

The next step may well be a ‘summons for inventory and account’ which is a quick, effective and (relatively) low risk and low cost way to force an executor to give you information and to make them ‘get a move on’.

As a last resort, ultimately, the court has the power to remove or appoint Personal Representatives. A judge would need to be persuaded that the administration of the estate is not being undertaken properly, as a result of the Personal Representative’s action or inaction.

If you are a Personal Representative or a beneficiary at the end of your tether because of an Executor or Personal Representative’s behaviour, our specialist wills and probate solicitors at Ridley & Hall can advise you as to the best way to move things forward. Call now on our freephone 0800 860 62 65.

James Urquhart-Burton

James Urquhart-Burton – Solicitor

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