An executor is the person appointed in a Will to administer the estate of a person who has died. Acting as executor is a position of responsibility and can be complex and time consuming. For some it can feel a burden, particularly whilst also having to deal with grief. In these cases the assistance of a lawyer to help administer the estate and shoulder some of the work is invaluable.
What about an executor who deliberately drags their feet?
It is always difficult when an executor doesn’t do their job. This could be because they consciously or sub-consciously have their own self-interests in mind. One common scenario is where the executor who, along with their sibling(s) inherited an equal share in a house owned by their deceased parent, drags their feet. The executor is responsible for distributing the estate of the deceased parent in accordance with the terms of the Will. They should not move into the deceased parent’s house, or continue to live there and effectively deny their sibling(s) the rightful share of the inheritance due to them.
Why does this scenario arise?
The executor may have had good intentions, such as keeping the house in good maintenance and occupied to prevent squatters. Or it may be because they already lived there, possibly they helped with care whilst the parent was alive, and just continued to live there after the parent died. In many instances, the long-term plan could be to buy out the other sibling(s) share in the house. However this plan does not always progress smoothly, swiftly or in some cases at all. The non-occupying sibling is then left seeking a sale of the house on the open market so each beneficiary can receive their fair inheritance as detailed in the Will. Putting the property on the market is in some cases resisted or ignored completely by the sibling who is sitting pretty in sole occupation of the house.
Can something be done?
Yes. The courts have wide ranging powers to deal with executors who drag their feet or fail to act in the interests of all the beneficiaries, rather than just their own self-interest.
In extreme cases rogue executors can be removed from their position (and from the house) completely. In other cases, for instance, if they have simply failed to get on with applying for a grant of probate, they might agree to renounce their role. Alternatively, a procedure known as a citation can be used to make them progress it or step aside so that others who are prepared to move on with administering the estate, can do so.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.