Executors Intermeddling With Estates, Can They Still Renounce The Executor Role?

We are often asked to advise on matters where executors have been appointed in a will, and they consider it a straightforward process only to find that it is not a straightforward process, it is full of complications, and that is subject to other articles within our web pages. Often also, executors can find that they are in the middle of family disputes about potentially contested matters.

In good faith, once they’re aware of the provisions of the will, they will begin to administer the estate as they see fit.

However, before a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration is applied for, they suddenly realise that the matter is more complicated, and they may not wish to go forward, or indeed the family may not wish the executor to continue with his administrative role for whatever reason.

Therefore, the question is; if you have been appointed as an executor of someone’s will, if you have started the administration of the estate, which is referred to in law as ‘Intermeddling with an Estate’ you will have one of three choices:

  1. Take up the appointment
  2. Renounce the appointment
  3. Have Power Reserved to you, if there is another executor who can act instead.

However, you should bear in mind that if you have ‘intermeddled’ with the estate after a death, you will not be able to renounce your appointment, and will need to act as executor.

This can cause difficulties for you both personally, and for the administration of the estate.

Intermeddling means that you have handled the deceased persons assets or held yourself in the role of executor, this could be collecting an asset or paying a debt, it could also mean you have dealt with handing over an asset to a beneficiary, or you have been running the deceased finances after their death.

Certain acts are not regarded as intermeddling, such as arranging a funeral, securing goods or moving assets to a place of safety. By preserving the estate assets initially, you are considered to be assuming a role of an executor. Often moving assets to a place of safety will involve a motor vehicle, which needs to be placed in a secure environment.

Our experience in such matters is that you should therefore think carefully about taking up your role. If you are acting as an executor, you need to bear in mind that you become personally liable for the financial aspects of the estate. You will need to account to a number of institutions, such as the HM Revenue and Customs, as well as the beneficiaries of the estate. It will be your role to make sure the correct amount of tax has been paid, the assets have been sold for their best price, and that the estate has been correctly distributed. If you make a mistake you could face personal financial liability for the loses incurred.

It is often difficult to advise potential executors that they should make investigations to find out what the deceased person owed with a view to having one eye on potential disagreements or situations that may put you in a personal financial position.

You should therefore carryout some investigations to find out what the deceased person owned, and make a decision whether to act or not as quickly as possible after the death, so the estate can be administered.

You should always weigh up the risk involving acting as an executor before taking any action, which may suggest that you have accepted the role.

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