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A guide to disputes with trustees & executors

10 May 2019

What is an executor?

Executors are the people who are chosen by the person making a will and are tasked with administering their estate. They are the individuals (for example, a family member) who will need to deal with the deceased’s affairs when they die, following the directions provided in the will.

What is a trustee?

Many wills include trusts so that assets can be held on behalf of the beneficiaries for a longer period if, for example, the beneficiary is still a child or incapable of managing money. The trustees are the people who will look after the money on behalf of the beneficiaries in the longer term.

Often the same people are chosen to be both executors and trustees but there may be separate trustees chosen.

What is an administrator?

Executors and administrators are often referred to as ‘personal representatives’. An administrator is a person who carries out the same job as the executor, where the deceased died without preparing a will. The individuals entitled to act as an administrator are dictated by strict legal rules depending upon the family members of the deceased.

What are the executor’s and trustee’s duties?

The executor has an important job to do, at what is often a difficult time. They’ll have to do things like paying off the debts of the person who has died, pay the inheritance tax due from the estate, and distribute the estate in the way that the will dictates. Following distribution of the estate, the executors should produce accounts to demonstrate how the assets have been managed, to avoid an inheritance dispute.

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Can an executor or trustee refuse to act, and can someone else act in their place?

If you’ve been appointed as an executor in a will and you don’t want to act, then you don’t have to apply for a Grant of Probate. You can refuse that right by taking no action, and allow the other executors in the will to carry on without you, or you can sign a renunciation document.

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What can I do if the executor or trustee is not doing their job properly?

If you’re a beneficiary and you’re not happy with how an executor or trustee is behaving, or you have concerns about their ability to perform their duties, you may be thinking about bringing a claim. You may, under certain circumstances, be able to apply to the court for an order for the executor or trustee to be removed, or replace them with someone else.

If you would like to make a claim against an executor, get in touch.

Why choose Willans?

For you to achieve the best possible outcome, you’ll need people with the best possible credentials and expertise.

Our Legal 500-rated team includes members of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and ACTAPS (the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists), experts who are, by definition, the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field of trusts and estates and related disputes.

Independent legal guide The Legal 500 says in their 2018 edition that our contentious probate team is “excellent in all aspects: almost immediate response times, with in-depth knowledge and experience.”

Legal awards and credentials aside, we’re a friendly team and will always explain things to you in a clear and practical way, and keep you updated on what’s happening with your case in a timely way.

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Paul Gordon LLB
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