New Enquiries Freephone
0800 860 62 65
Existing Clients
Make a Payment

Steps You Can Take If You Are Overdue An Inheritance

by Ridley & Hall in Contentious probate, James Urquhart-Burton, Sarah Young, Will Disputes posted May 1, 2024.
Reading time: 0 min read

If you’re the beneficiary of a will and you have concerns over the executors who are administering the estate, you’ll want to take advice from a specialist contentious probate solicitor about the steps you can take. If you don’t take advice quickly, this can cause problems that become harder to put right over time.

What are Executor Duties

Executors have a duty under s.25 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 to collect in the assets of the estate, pay its liabilities and to ensure the beneficiaries get the balance in accordance with the deceased’s will.

Executors also have fiduciary duties towards beneficiaries (the legal term for duties which are of the utmost good faith). Breaches of fiduciary duty are actionable in court and carry personal liabilities for the executors, who may be ordered by the court to compensate the beneficiaries from their own personal funds.

You can bring what is known as an “administration action” against executors for failure to administer the estate properly. There are different types of action depending on the problem at hand.

Either way, it might be time to take control of the situation and start taking steps to exercise your rights as a beneficiary.

How To Obtain Information About The Administration

The starting point is usually to obtain more information. A beneficiary who has not yet seen estate accounts should ask to see them as a priority. Action can be taken under the Non-Contentious Probate Rules to seek an order that an executor provide an inventory and account of the administration.

A prison sentence can even be imposed against an executor who fails to provide accounts in the face of an order of the Probate Court.

Once you have a more complete picture, you might be concerned that this has revealed problems with the administration.

What If The Executor Has Not Administered The Estate Properly

Sometimes executors fail to administer an estate correctly.  Some common examples of this are:

  1. Distributing incorrect sums to beneficiaries
  2. Failing to pay debts, or paying supposed debts which should not have been paid
  3. Putting their own proprieties and wishes ahead of those of the beneficiaries
  4. Selling estate assets at an undervalue

What If The Executor is Incompetent

Sometimes it’s not just one problem, but a litany of them. Other times, the executor simply can’t do the job property at all. You might feel this way if:

  1. You’ve lost all trust and confidence with the executor and things can’t progress the way they have been
  2. The executor is doing nothing to progress the administration
  3. There is a conflict between the executor’s interests and those of the beneficiaries, making it impossible for the executor to comply with their fiduciary duties.

Fortunately, if it’s very early in the administration and the executor has not taken steps to administer the estate, they have the option of giving up their job (renouncing). That’s most cost effective, but often not possible, because usually by the time you’ve realised there’s a problem, that’s because the executor has taken steps to administer the estate, albeit incorrectly.

In that case, an application to the court may be needed to seek an order removing the executor. The court will need information about who else may be suitable to appoint.

What Should You Do Next And How Ridley & Hall’s Contentious Probate Solicitors Can Help

Claims against executors are specialist claims for which the advice of a specialist contentious probate solicitor should be sought. Time is often of the essence, as prompt action could mean the difference between preventing the executor from making a mistake vs a lengthy and costly legal dispute against an executor for a mistake which has already been made.

James Urquhart Burton Headshot

James Urquhart Burton – Solicitor & Partner





Posts by Category