Although being appointed as the executor of a Will is a vital role, it’s also a fairly thankless task. An executor must perform several duties, and the most crucial is acting in the estate and beneficiaries’ best interests.
Executors usually need to collect the estate assets then distribute them between all of the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will. Although this sounds quite simple, in fact it’s often challenging and there’s a possibility of things going wrong.
In some cases, executors who are appointed don’t know each other, or don’t get along. That can cause disagreements about how the estate’s administration should be handled. As a result, the beneficiaries usually bear the brunt of the conflict.
What If The Executor is a Beneficiary?
If the executor is a beneficiary too, which often happens, other issues may arise. Sometimes, beneficiary executors try their best to manipulate the administration of the estate so they can benefit more than the other beneficiaries. Clearly, this is a breach of their duty to act in the estate and beneficiaries’ best interests, and is a failure to distribute the assets of the estate in accordance with the Will’s terms.
Should you have a dispute with one of the executors of a Will, you need to keep records of all discussions. If they’re failing to act in alignment with the Will’s terms, you should raise the issue directly with them, preferably in writing, and then it can be referred back to easily when needed.
If you cannot directly resolve the problem with the executor, you may need to make a court application to get them removed as the Will’s executor. The way you approach the court depends on if probate has been granted already, and whether they’re a joint or sole executor. If there are two or more executors, that is helpful as removing the one who is causing the problem won’t cause the estate to have no representative.
The court considers the conduct of the executor and reviews whether or not they’ve complied with the Will’s terms. It also considers how they have handled any complaints received from their beneficiaries or co-executors.
Resolving Disputes Between Joint Executors
If disputes arise between joint executors, the court often tries to resolve the issue by removing both executors before appointing another independent administrator who can manage the administration of the estate going forward. If there’s just one executor, another lay-executor may be appointed by the court who will replace the executor who is causing the problem.
The way the situation is handled is at the discretion of the courts. Of course, each approach has its own cost consequences, so trying to resolve the issue amicably should always be the first port of call.
Although it may seem simple to remove an executor who is causing a problem, it isn’t always as straightforward as you might imagine. The courts may not be willing to remove the executor as they would prefer to adhere to the wishes of the testator. The testator drew up a Will that detailed who they wanted to be their executor.
Taking a decision to overrule this wish will never be taken lightly. Therefore, if you an executor to be removed, you’ll need to ensure that the case you present to the courts is very convincing. Seeking advice as early as possible is essential to make sure you’re acting appropriately in the matter.