The role of an executor is not something to be taken lightly. In an earlier blog I discussed some of the pitfalls that can arise for executors and the risks associated with the role. However, what people often fail to realise is that, once you start to act as an executor, you cannot simply step aside or stop acting because things get complicated or protracted. This is known as intermeddling.
Once a person takes any active steps to administer the estate, such as closing bank accounts or acting on the sale of a property, they cannot stop acting unless they are removed from the role by a court order. This is the case even where all parties are in agreement that the executor should step aside. This can be particularly problematic if the executor is also a beneficiary of the estate and another party brings a claim against the estate. When that happens, the person can quickly find themselves with a conflict of interests as executors are required to remain neutral, whereas a beneficiary has a right to defend their intertest in the estate.
So, what should you do? In the first instance, potential executors should carefully consider whether or not to take up the role if there is a strong change for conflict. It can be possible to potentially opposing sides to choose someone else to act on their behalf. This will usually be a professional (such as a specialist probate solicitor) who can undertake the estate administration in an impartial fashion while any litigation or negotiations are underway.
If an executor has started to act, but needs to step down either due to a conflict or for personal reasons, then an application can be made to the court. This can either be done with everyone’s approval (which is the simpler way) or without consent in which case the court will determine whether or not the executor should be removed.
If you are appointed as an executor and need assistance, or if you would like to approach us to act as an independent administrators then please contact any member of our Wealth Management Team on 01494 521301.