What is an executor? 

It is common for a Will to name two or more people (often family members) to be the executors of an estate. The executor's role is to administer the estate by ascertaining its assets (such as a house and savings) and liabilities (debts) and then distributing the estate to the beneficiaries per the terms of the Will. 

However, problems of contentious probate can often arise when an executor fails to carry out their role by, for example, delaying the estate's administration or deliberately failing to administer the terms as the deceased specified. 

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What problems can arise?

Typical problems can be because:

  1. The executors have fallen out and need help to work together to deal with the estate administration. 
  2. A beneficiary is not given information concerning the Will or estate. 
  3. The executor(s) deliberately delay the administration of the estate or obtaining a Grant of Probate. 
  4. A beneficiary has yet to receive their inheritance, but other beneficiaries have.
  5. The beneficiaries believe that the executor(s) has taken money from the estate for their use. 

If you have experienced any of these issues, you can take steps to remove the executor(s) and consider how the estate can be administered properly.

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Can an executor be removed?

An executor can "stand down" from their role, known as "renouncing" their position. They can only do this if they have not started to deal with the administration of the estate, known as "intermeddling". 

If an executor refuses to stand down, an application can be made to the court for their removal. The court will expect substantive reasons for the removal to be present and to see that efforts have been made in advance to resolve the issues. The court will not automatically remove an executor simply because they may have fallen out with the other executor. 

The following are ground to make an application to the court :

  1. The executor is not fit for the role (i.e. they need the mental capacity to undertake it). 
  2. The executor has committed serious misconduct (i.e. stolen money from the estate). 
  3. The executor has failed in their duty to administer the estate per the Will (for example, paid only some of the beneficiaries) 
  4. The executor has a conflict of interests (for example, the executor is also bringing a claim against the estate). 
  5. The executor has caused the estate loss and failed to protect its assets.

Applications to remove an executor can be complex and as they often involve family members can result in or inflame embittered families. The process can also be costly so. It is always sensible to explore whether an amicable resolution can be reached before an application to the court. 

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Contact Our Contentious Probate Lawyers

If you are considering applying to remove an executor or are an executor facing a removal application, you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.  At Myerson's, we have a specialist team of Contentious Probate solicitors who can advise on applying for, or defending, an application to remove an executor.  Contact us via the number below:

0161 941 4000