Can A Personal Representative Step Down From Their Duties?

This very much depends on a number of factors, this article gives general advice as this can be quite a complicated area of the law.

The important factors are not necessarily in this order but include:

Whether you have been appointed as a Personal Representative, be it as an executor (where there is a will) or an administrator (where there is no will).

Secondly if there is a personal representative, whether they have intermeddled with the estate.

There is a previous article on intermeddling with the estate, which we refer you to within our website articles.

Whether the Grant of Representation has been issued, the Grant of Representation either being a Grant of Probate or indeed a Grant of Letters of Administration.

An executor can only renounce his appointment before a Grant of Representation has been made. If a grant has been made there are alternative procedures, but the executor cannot renounce in those situations.

Where a Grant of Probate has been issued to the executor, as a general rule executors are not allowed to take the Grant of Probate, and then decide they no longer wish to act. The Probate Registry does have a limited power to revoke a Grant of Probate on the agreement of all the personal representatives, however they do not exercise this power lightly, and will require evidence of a special circumstance just to find this relief.

There are several examples of this but where one executor has become severely ill, maybe a situation where the appropriate “special circumstances” are applicable, each case depends on its own merits.

If the executor has “intermeddled” in the estate, this basically means where an executor has dealt with the administration of the estate before the Grant of Probate has been issued, as if they were in-fact the executor.

In the case of administrators as a personal representative who is appointed by the Probate Registry, in a situation where there is no will or, alternatively, if there is a will but no executor is appointed, or all of the executors died, renounced and so on.

The persons who can act as administrator closely follow the beneficiaries to the estate under the intestacy rules (or under the will). Any of those potential administrators have the right to apply for the Grant of Representation without the need to give notice to any others – it is on a first come first served basis.

If a potential administrator does not wish to act, there is no need for him/her to take any further action. There is no need to renounce, since there is nothing to renounce from. While a potential administrator is capable of intermeddling in the estate, doing so will not force him/her to apply for the grant, or be it he/she will be personally responsible for any actions taken.

As for executors, once a grant has been issued to an administrator, he/she cannot step down without an Order from the Probate Registry.

There is a procedure where, for example, some time has passed in the administration of the estate, and the executor really needs to “quit” then they must ask the Court for permission to withdraw. If the court gives permission, the personal representative will have to prepare a detailed account of everything they have done with/for/in relation to the estate, something to consider when “backing away” from the executor role mid-way through – if the assets are left in a risky/unresolved state, then the executor could incur personal liability.

In all these situations our experience is that each case is unique and therefore legal advice should be obtained at the soonest possible date.

If you have issues please do not hesitate to contact us.