When you make a Will, you nominate an executor. This is the person you appoint to carry out the wishes left in your Will. Your executor could be a friend, family member or a professional – the most important thing is that you trust them and they feel comfortable and confident administering your estate.
Family relationships can be difficult and sometimes appointing relatives, rather than a professional, as executors of your will can prove a costly mistake. That was certainly so in one case, where bitter litigation between siblings resulted in legal costs bills totalling more than £200,000.
The case concerned a man who passed away in his early 90s having had dementia for some years. The effect of his very simple will was that his net estate, which was worth about £450,000, was to pass in equal shares to his four surviving children and one of his grandchildren. He appointed his daughter and one of his sons as his executors.
Prior to his death, the siblings were already engaged in litigation before the Court of Protection concerning supervision of his care, finances and other matters. The costs of those proceedings came to almost £100,000. The pattern continued after he died when his daughter applied for an order removing her brother from his role as executor. The costs of those proceedings totalled £123,702.
Granting the order sought, a judge noted that no findings of wrongdoing had been made against the son. However, his intense and ill-founded hostility to his siblings meant he could not be expected to display the reasonable, structured and objective approach that was vital to the proper and effective administration of the estate. His siblings were unanimous in supporting his removal.
Administering the estate should have been a straightforward matter and the fees that a solicitor would have charged to perform that role were dwarfed by the costs of the proceedings. After the daughter agreed to step aside, the judge directed the replacement of both family executors by a single professional who could be relied upon to administer the estate sensibly and without further delay.
So if your family is prone to disputes, you might consider appointing a trusted friend or an impartial professional as your executor to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
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.