When joint executors of a will disagree, they should try to resolve a solution themselves. Otherwise, a court can intervene and remove an executor.
Many people choose to name joint executors in their will. However, this can sometimes lead to problems. A will cannot progress unless all executors are in agreement, which can slow down the process of releasing a deceased person’s inheritance to the beneficiaries.
Read on to find out more about joint executors and what can happen when they disagree.
- – The process of contesting a will explained
- – How to challenge will
- – Can grandchildren contest a will?
- – Can joint executors act independently?
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What Is an Executor?
An executor is a key role in the process of putting together a will. They’re a person that the testator (the writer of the will) is entrusting to ensure that their estate is properly managed and their last wishes are fulfilled. They are responsible for finding the will, and then applying for probate in order to control the estate.
Why Have Joint Executors?
Because it’s a role that comes with a lot of responsibility, many people choose to appoint joint executors.
There are various reasons for this. Sometimes it’s a simple as sharing the load. Being an executor is a lot of work and can be stressful, and so sharing it between two people means that it doesn’t fall to one person to handle all of the admin involved.
In other cases, people choose to have joint executors simply to make sure that at least one of their chosen executors is available. People write their wills at different times – some leave it until they know they’re dying while others plan in advance, either in case of sudden death or because they have children and want everything resolved.
But if you write a will, you might not yet die for many more years. So by choosing joint executors, there is a higher chance that at least one of them will be alive and in a position to act as executor when you do pass away.
When applying for probate, it’s up to you to decide whose name is on the application. It can have up to four names, but it only requires one. Only those named on the application have the power to control the estate, so it’s important you agree early on who is named.
If only one executor is named, they will need to demonstrate proof that they got permission from other executors to apply alone, or at least that they tried to make contact.
Why Might Joint Executors Disagree?
The problems occur when all of your executors are alive, present and involved in handling your estate by all being named on the probate application. If that’s the case, then all decisions must be agreed by all executors. Otherwise, the probate – the period of administering the will – must pause until a resolution can be found.
When dealing with a will, there are many different areas in which joint executors might disagree. Property is a particular sticking point, as people often have different opinions on the best way to handle it.
A beneficiary might wish to buy a house, which one executor might agree with while another feels it would best serve the estate to sell it on the open market. Alternatively, one might want to wait for property prices to improve while the other prefers to sell immediately in order to release the inheritance to beneficiaries sooner.
If one executor takes action without the agreement of another, this can also cause a hold up in proceedings. Even deciding on what classes as an admin cost that can be charged to the estate can cause a rift.
On some occasions, it might not be a particular incident. Families are complex, and if you’ve chosen two executors from within your family, they might simply have had a falling out and refuse to communicate properly.
Petty squabbles can put the brakes on probate being pushed through, which can be extremely frustrating for all parties, in particular the beneficiaries who are waiting for their inheritance.
How to Avoid Disagreements?
It might sound overly simple, but the easiest way to avoid disagreements during probate is for the executors to communicate with each other regularly and consistently. It is rare that executing a will is an enjoyable process, and so getting it resolved quickly and painlessly is the best option.
With that in mind, simply keeping a dialogue open where disputes can be discussed can help to resolve many disagreements.
Establish objectives early. Is the plan to get the most out of the estate, or to resolve it as quickly as possible. What do the beneficiaries prefer? Make sure everyone is on the same page, and the whole process can run a lot smoother.
If you’re unsure on the best action to take, you can consult a probate specialist for one-off advice, although it may be easier for them to simply control the probate for you – read on below for more details.
How to Resolve Disagreements?
If disagreements cannot be resolved by communication, then a more formal option may be required.
Firstly, one executor might decide they no longer want to be involved in the process. They have two options here – they can either renounce as executor, which would mean they were permanently removed from the agreement or if a Grant of Representation has already been issued, then they can opt to have ‘power reserved’.
This means that they are stepping away from the role of executor, but leaving open the option to apply via the courts if they want to return for any reason, such as they believe the estate is being severely mismanaged in their absence.
If neither executor wants to be the one to step away from the role, then it would be time to turn to legal advice. An executor can apply to the Probate Court to have another executor removed. The court will examine the situation and decide on what is best for the estate, and then remove one of the executors.
The court might choose to leave it like that, with one fewer executor on the probate grant, or they could appoint a substitute if they felt it was necessary. Once the court has acted, the remaining executors would carry on with the probate process until the inheritance has been divided between beneficiaries and all other administration completed.
Alternative Options for Joint Executors
There is another way that disputes can be resolved, rather than going to the courts. It’s possible to appoint a third party to handle the probate so that neither executor has to make the final decisions. In this scenario, you’d hire a Probate specialist, which is usually a solicitor, who will take on all of the work. They’ll charge a fee, but this can be taken from the estate, rather than being paid by the executors directly.
When a professional expert takes over, it means an end to disputes as they will always act in the best interest of the estate, without the personal ties. They will listen to the instructions of the executors, but where there are disputes, the third party will make the final call.
Quick Contested Probate FAQs
How Can Money Savings Advice Help You Contentious Probate?
Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s leading Contested Probate claim management companies. They have already helped thousands of people make successful probate claims and they can do the same for you.
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