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The role of an executor to an estate is a trusted position. Executors have access to all of someone’s money and possessions after their death, and they are bound by law to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and to protect the estate assets.
This will generally be a difficult time for those who were close to the deceased, and where an executor is not carrying out their duties properly, it can be distressing and worrying. They could be failing to look after the property in the estate, taking too long to deal with the administration or acting fraudulently.
At Glanvilles Solicitors, we can intervene on your behalf to investigate the executor’s behaviour and advise you of your options. This could include negotiating the removal of an executor whose conduct is not acceptable or asking the court to remove them.
Our advice in respect of executors who are not dealing effectively with an estate or who are otherwise failing includes in respect of the following:
If you are concerned about the conduct of an executor and you would like advice as to how to proceed, our executor disputes solicitors will be happy to help.
Contact your local Hampshire or West Sussex branch in Chichester, Fareham or Havant or fill in our simple online enquiry form for a quick response from one of our expert contentious probate solicitors.
Our executor disputes team are experienced in dealing with the difficulties that can arise in an estate administration. We can advise you of your best course of action and, wherever possible, work to try and resolve matters without the need for litigation.
We are often able to reach an agreement without a court hearing, which is a faster and more cost-effective way of dealing with a dispute.
If we do need to take legal action on your behalf, we will ensure you have a sound legal case and expert representation.
Our team are sympathetic, and approachable and we will make sure that we give you the support and advice you need to deal with the problems you are experiencing.
At Glanvilles, we offer outstanding service as well as genuine legal expertise. You will have your own personal lawyer who will deal with your case and who will work proactively to move matters forward as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
When you use our contract dispute resolution services, we promise:
Removing an executor is possible where there has been a serious breach of their duties. This could be where there is serious misconduct, such as not keeping records, wasting or mismanaging the estate, stealing from the estate, not obeying an order of the court or where an executor is acting fraudulently.
The first step in dealing with an executor whose conduct has not been adequate is to write and ask them to explain what has happened and rectify the situation.
If problems continue, an application can be made to the court asking for the removal of an executor. This will need to be accompanied by supporting evidence, including a statement explaining why removal is sought and details of the estate and those with interest in it. The application will also need to include the name of a proposed substitute executor together with their signed consent to take on the role.
If there is a delay in the estate administration, you should try and establish why. The executor may have been advised to wait for a period of six months or more to see if any claims are made against the estate. If they distribute funds too early and someone later steps forward with a claim, they could find themselves in a difficult position, needing to claim money back from beneficiaries or having personal liability themselves.
Where there is no reasonable explanation, then it is possible to ask the court to intervene to order production of estate accounts and distribution of the estate assets to the beneficiaries who are entitled to receive them.
It is also possible to ask the court to remove the executor and replace them.
It can take a substantial amount of time for an estate to be administered and for an executor to be in a position to distribute funds to the beneficiaries. Where the estate is complex with a variety of assets and property, it can take many months or a year or longer for the administration to be dealt with.
However, if an estate is simple, then it might be possible for distribution to take place within around six months of the issue of the grant of probate, if one is necessary.
Where an executor fails to distribute funds in accordance with the Will, it is open to a beneficiary to bring legal proceedings against them to recover what they should have received. The executor will be required to pay them what they are due under the terms of the Will. If funds are not available because of the executor’s actions, they may have to settle the claim from their own funds, as executors are personally liable for any loss to the estate.
While an executor has to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, they do not have to obtain their approval for their actions. This means that they can sell a property if they believe that this is the best course of action. They do need to be careful not to act for personal gain or to allow their personal feelings to affect their actions.
This also applies to the sale price of a property. The executor needs to achieve the best possible price for the estate, and there is a chance that the executor and beneficiaries may disagree on this point. Provided the sale price is at market value, the executor will usually be able to demonstrate that they have acted reasonably.
Where the Will appoints two or more executors to act together, then they will both need to deal with the estate administration together. It is only possible to act alone where the second executor officially steps down from the role.
There is a rule against personal representatives self-dealing. This means that an executor cannot purchase property from the estate that they are administering. Where an executor does purchase property, the beneficiaries may be able to void the transaction in the future, even if the estate did not suffer a loss.
If you have concerns about the way in which an estate is being dealt with by an executor, we can explain your options to you and suggest the best course of action.
To speak to an expert solicitor for executor disputes or executor fraud or for advice on the removal of an executor of an estate, give us a call at your local Hampshire or West Sussex branch in Chichester, Fareham or Havant or fill in our simple online enquiry form for a quick response.