A Will allows you to determine what happens to your estate after you pass away, ensuring that assets are distributed to those that matter most. It is the role of an executor to oversee the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. But what happens if the executor does not distribute the estate, or fails to do so within a reasonable time limit?
When a person creates a Will, they usually appoint an executor to carry out their wishes. It is important to understand the role of an executor in the distribution of an estate to beneficiaries in UK law. A Grant of Probate is the legal document that confirms the executor's authority to fulfil such duties. In the case that there is no Will, or there is no named executor, a Letter of Administration may be issued to authorise a different person or organisation to act as administrator of a deceased person's estate.
Problems can arise when an executor does not distribute the estate or fails to do so within a reasonable time limit. In some cases, there may be an innocent explanation. In other cases, action may need to be taken to ensure the proper and timely distribution of an estate to the proper beneficiaries.
Please note, this is intended for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal advice concerning probate and estate administration, please contact your local BakerLaw office or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens if an executor does not follow the Will?
If an executor fails to follow the instructions outlined in a Will, they may be held accountable and face legal consequences. Beneficiaries or other interested parties can challenge the executor's actions in court. If it is found that the executor breached their duties, they may be removed from their position and required to compensate the affected parties.
In some instances, there may have been an honest misunderstanding or mistake on the part of the executor. In others, executors may have intentionally abused their position. For example, the executor may be living in a property owned by the deceased and refuse to move out. In that case, appropriate steps could be taken to have them removed and the estate administered.
Disappointed beneficiaries can seek help with claims against executors. If necessary, an injunction can be sought to prevent further actions by executors, trustees, or administrators until the matter is resolved. Consultation with a professional probate solicitor is highly recommended in order to obtain the right legal advice.
What happens if an executor does not act?
If an executor fails to act on the terms of the Will, the initial step is to contact the executor to discuss the concerns. It is important to document this contact, as evidence may be needed later to demonstrate to the court that the issues were raised clearly, at an early stage, and that the executor was given time to resolve the problem.
Beneficiaries can take legal action against an executor who still fails to act. This can include applying to the court for an order to have the executor removed and replaced. Beneficiaries can seek damages for any loss caused by the executor's inaction. In more extreme cases, the executor may face criminal charges for having committed an offence.
Can an executor delay distribution?
The executor should fulfil their distribution duties within a reasonable time limit and in accordance with the terms of the Will. There may be a justifiable reason for a delay in some cases. Other factors that could cause a delay include outstanding debts or taxes owed, or delays caused by third parties, such as the Probate Service and HM Revenue & Customs.
It is important to note that executors are often advised not to distribute to beneficiaries within the first six months. This is to allow time in case another individual wants to make an inheritance claim on the estate. Patience will be required in terms of the time limit for an executor to distribute an estate in the UK.
Deliberately delaying an inheritance claim without good reason could be considered a breach of their duty and may result in legal action being taken against them.
Can you have an executor of a Will removed?
An executor can be removed if they are not fulfilling their duties properly. This can be done through a court application to remove the executor, which is determined based on whether a grant of probate has been obtained or not.
If an executor refuses to step down, beneficiaries or co-executors may need to make an application for their removal. In this case, a citation may be issued to the executor, requiring them to make an appearance and respond to the application, whether in the Probate Registry or court.
The decision to have the executor removed is a significant one and should not be taken lightly. If the executor is not willing to communicate or correct their approach, it is important to seek advice and assistance from professional solicitors with expertise in probate and estate administration.