The Executor of a Will isn’t Acting Properly – What Can I Do?

Author:
Helen Hall
Dispute Resolution Associate Solicitor
Date:
30/09/2019

If you feel an Executor is not acting properly or quickly enough, then as a beneficiary, you have options if you decide to take action.

The following will apply to the Executor/s of a Will in England or Wales and to administrators if there is no Will.

An Executor’s duties and responsibilities include:

  • Collecting the deceased’s assets
  • Valuing the deceased’s assets
  • Applying for Probate if needed
  • Paying any outstanding debts including any taxes owed
  • Preparing Estate accounts of all assets and liabilities
  • Distributing the Estate in accordance with the Will or if there is no will the rules of intestacy

Removing an Executor is not straightforward and can come at a cost, which could be borne by the Estate, potentially depleting its value. It is therefore important to consider what the cost and benefits of removing an Executor might be.

If you’re unsure, get in touch with our Contentious Probate Solicitors for advice on the best course of action.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

How Might an Executor Be Acting Improperly?

Common problems faced by beneficiaries dealing with Executors can include:

  • Delays in dealing with the Estate
  • Lack of information
  • Dealing with assets incorrectly or selling at an undervalue

An Executor can be expected to show a certain level of competence, even with more complex Estates, particularly if they are professional people.

If you suspect the Executor is not dealing with the Estate properly, or at all, then as beneficiary you should discuss your concerns to other beneficiaries, if you know who they are, to see if they agree. You should first communicate your concerns to the Executor and ask for an explanation. If the executor is a family member you may find that they do not want the burden of the responsibility, in which case, you may need to consider if they want to stand down from the role (or renounce). They may be grieving too so it’s important to be tactful.

Please note that in general, an Executor would not be expected to distribute an Estate before at least 6 months after the Grant of Probate. This can, and will take longer with more complex Estates.

If contacting the Executor does not produce a satisfactory result, then there may be a steps that can be taken and these depend upon the circumstances, whether the Executor has begun to administer the Estate and whether they have applied for a Grant of Probate.

Legal Actions to Remove an Executor

Before the Grant of Probate

If the Executor has not taken out a Grant or progressed matters at all they may want to renounce or you can issue a citation requiring them to act.

If you have other concerns about suitability then you may also need to issue a caveat or possibly make an application under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act or section 116 of the Senior Courts Act.

After the Grant

Accountability

If the issue is lack of information or delay, the first step is to seek an account of their actions and conduct and request that the Executor account for his/her activities during the administration process.

If they fail to cooperate it is possible to apply for an Order that they produce and account of the administration of the Estate. This can be used also if you have doubts about the inclusion or value of assets in the estate and This may then and determine whether further action is required.

Section 50 Application

If there are concerns arising from this or more serious concerns about conduct it is possible to seek the removal or seek to replace an Executor under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985.

This can be done where relations have broken down between the Executor and the beneficiaries to an extent where the Estate cannot be properly administered, or there are other concerns about the administration or suitability or capability of the Executor, but the burden is high to establish the Executor as incapable or unsuitable.

Appoint a Judicial Trustee for Administration Proceedings

Administration proceedings are an option but are used infrequently and are a last resort.

A Judicial Trustee to be appointed. This removes the Executor and replaces them with a Court appointed Trustee, whom will then continue to administer the Estate.

For more information see Executor disputes or get in touch with our Contentious Probate Solicitors to find out what we can do to resolve issues with Executors and Administrators.

For free legal advice call our Contentious Probate Solicitors

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