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How do I remove an executor from a will?

A bereavement is bad enough; having an issue with the executor adds to the stress.

When you make a will one of the most important things to consider is who you appoint to administer your estate: the executor. This is certainly not a decision to take lightly.

Acting as an executor is a role of great responsibility particularly if affairs are not left in good order. You need someone honest, reliable, organised and used to dealing with financial issues. Thankfully, you can have more than one.

According to STEP (Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners), the cost of probate fraud is predicted in the region of £150 million and executors, particularly with their level of control, could potentially manipulate things and help themselves to the estate. Or perhaps an executor is genuine but stalling decisions and not dealing with the estate properly.

Whether it is a human oversight or something more sinister, we asked Theo Hoppen from the Stowe Family Law office in Harrogate to join us on the blog to look at what you can do to remove an executor.

“I am often consulted by clients who are frustrated by the failure of an executor to properly administer an estate.  When a person dies, his or her Will (if they have one) will appoint one or more executors to collect in the estate’s assets and distribute them.  If there is no Will then a beneficiary of the estate under the Intestacy Rules can be appointed to administer the estate.

Sometimes a beneficiary has concerns that the executor is behaving improperly by, for example, keeping estate assets for themselves or transferring estate assets to a third party.  These disputes can be complex and very emotionally charged.  I find that the death of a loved one can exacerbate tensions within a family, sometimes leading to all-out warfare between relations.

My job is to sort out the dispute so that everyone gets what they are entitled to and move on with their lives.  Usually, the best option is to arrange a mediation session.  I find this can often resolve even the most acrimonious disputes and, importantly, the court will expect the parties to mediate before taking the matter to court.

If you bypass mediation, without a good reason, the court will hold this against you and may order you to pay some or all the other party’s legal costs if you lose your court case.

A mediator is an independent third party appointed jointly by the parties.  He or she will spend a day encouraging everyone to negotiate and resolve the dispute.  Whilst the parties pay for mediation, it is considerably cheaper than pursuing court proceedings and a much quicker process as a court case can take at least a year to conclude and sometimes longer.

If mediation fails, the court remains the only other option. The court can make various orders to sort matters out and ensure that the estate is administered correctly.  It can order that an executor is removed and replaced by someone else and also order how the estate should be administered. “

If you need advice on removing an executor or different claims against an estate please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or at the details below.

Theo Hoppen was a Senior Solicitor in our Harrogate office. He advises on all aspects of family law with a specialism in representing clients in relation to claims against estates under the Inheritance Act.

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