Wills, Trust & Estate Disputes
Irwin Mitchell Sees Rising Number Of Problems With Will Executors
A will dispute expert is urging people to make sure they are aware of the "strict duties" they must carry out when acting as an executor following a substantial rise in the number of cases where people have encountered problems.
An executor is appointed by the maker of a will to carry out the directions of the will after their death, and is legally required to follow certain procedures and act in the best interests of the estate. If there is no will an administrator is appointed (usually the person first entitled under the Rules of Intestacy).
Adam Draper, Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell's Wills, Trust & Estate Disputes team in Sheffield, said: "We've seen a huge rise in the number of cases where people are coming to us because they do not believe the executor/administrator has been fulfilling their duties. In the last year alone the number of cases has increased by approximately 50 per cent.
"The most common cases have occurred where the executor has not disclosed or filed the documentation relating to the estate correctly, has failed to pay or collect debts, failed to sell shares causing a loss to the estate or failed to distribute funds to the beneficiaries correctly.
"It is often the case that an executor/administrator receives funds many months and years after the death (e.g. where litigation is ongoing or assets are located at a later date) and these funds are not always correctly passed on to the beneficiaries.
"These problems add unnecessary stress and pressure to what is already a difficult time for the family and can lead to fall outs between family members or potential beneficiaries of the estate."
The most common duties required of an executor include offering the will for probate, distributing any property to the designated heirs of the will and arranging the payment of debts of the estate.
The executor also ensures tax payments are made, as well as making any charitable donations directed in the will and generally safeguards the assets of the estate.
Draper added: "It is important that executors understand that the directions of the will are not just guidelines, they are strict duties that they are required to carry out by law.
"Acting as an executor is a position that carries great responsibility, and it is vital that the executor has the knowledge and abilities needed to protect the estate and carry out the directions of the will.
"Every situation is different so there are no set attributes that are needed to act as an executor, but it is essential that the will maker appoints someone or a team of people who are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and have the time and capacity to follow the will as they have directed."