When a person writes a will, they will appoint an executor. The executor is tasked with executing the estate after the death of the person. They will take care of the administration and distribution according to the wishes of the deceased.
The executor is also responsible for gathering the beneficiaries and distributing the estate amongst them. If there are trusts, the executor becomes the executor of the trust as well.
But what happens if the executor can’t or refuses to fulfil their duties?
Duties of the Executor
Most people choose to appoint someone close to them as the executor of their estate after them. The executor has a lot of responsibilities and only trustworthy people are preferred.
If the executor fails at their duties, many crucial tasks can’t be performed.
The executor has to comply with the instructions in the will and execute the estate –
- Compiling and calculating the deceased’s assets
- Settling debts
- Maintaining detailed records of actions
- Distributing the estate
- Contacting all the beneficiaries
- Mediating disputed amongst the beneficiaries
- Applying for a Grant of Probate
If for any reason, the executors are unable to carry out their duties, you, as a beneficiary can take steps to ensure that the estate is distributed as the deceased wanted it to be.
What to do if the executor does not apply for a Grant of Probate?
If the executor does not apply for a Grant of Probate, you, as a beneficiary, can appeal to the court to appoint another executor for the estate.
The first step is to contact the executor and let them know that would like them to attend to their duties, or else you would appoint another executor.
If they still do not act upon their duties, you can serve them a subpoena to retrieve the copy of the will with them.
The next step to take, if they do not comply, is to register a citation in court.
The executor must reply to the citation and apply for a Grant of Probate. If they do not reply or refuse to apply for a Grant of Probate, the court can then appoint another executor.
The government of the U.K. offers systematic redressal systems to help distribute estates as soon as possible.
What to do if the executor does apply but does not act further?
If the executor has applied for a Grant of Probate but is not following up on it, you can no longer register a citation, however, there are other ways to help distribute the estate faster.
If you, as the next of kin, feel that the executor is not fulfilling their duties satisfactorily, you can ask for an account of their activities toward the estate. It is one of the duties of the executor to keep a detailed record of the steps taken toward executing the estate.
You can involve the court if you are not satisfied with the way the executor is dealing with the estate.
The executor can only get removed by the court. If you have registered a citation in the court, you can ask that the executor be removed if they are not fulfilling their duties.
Since the executor has been appointed by the deceased, the court prefers to let them continue in the role. You would have to substantiate your claim with solid proof.
If the court decides that the executor is not fulfilling their duties, they can be removed under Article 50 of the Administration of Justice Act, 1985.
The court will remove the executor and appoint someone else in their place if there is only one appointed executor. However, if there are multiple executors, the court can only remove one and more, but not all.
What is the executor liable for if they do not fulfill their duties?
When the executor delays their duties, they are causing loss to the beneficiaries. The executor can be liable for this financial loss to the beneficiaries. This is because the executor is not allowed to benefit at the expense of the beneficiaries.
The court can also decide to reduce the compensation due to the executor for deficiency of duty. It can even deny compensation altogether.
There is no need to panic if the executor does not fulfill their duties. The court allows you to appoint a new executor if the duties are not fulfilled satisfactorily.
If you need assistance or advice for distributing an estate, do not hesitate to contact a trusted estate planner. We can help you not only evaluate the estate, but also ensure that the estate is distributed only according to the deceased’s wishes, fairly, and within time.