Disputes With An Executor Of A Deceased’s Estate

It is common for executors to be in dispute about how a deceased’s estate should be administered. A beneficiary of an estate may also feel as though the executor is not carrying out their role correctly and dealing with the estate in line with what the Will or rules of intestacy provide.

For example, one executor may want to sell a property in the deceased’s estate straightaway and distribute the sale proceeds to the beneficiaries and another may consider it in the best interests of the beneficiaries to wait for property prices to rise to increase the beneficiaries inheritance.

What are the duties of an executor?

Executors are required to comply with certain duties, including:

  • Acting in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries at all times;
  • Winding up the affairs of the estate;
  • Settling any outstanding debts; and
  • Distributing the estate to those entitled to inherit.

Any delay in complying with their duties can be seen to be unnecessary and action can be taken against executors who delay. Generally, the administration of an estate will take around one year from the deceased’s death to complete, however, in complex estates, it can take longer.

What legal action can be taken against an executor in these circumstances?

Where executors cannot agree on matters or where a beneficiary is unhappy with an executor’s dealings with an estate, they can ask the Court to decide what should happen. Examples of the legal action that can be taken against an executor include:

  • An executor or a beneficiary can make an application to Court to ask the Court to determine any question arising in the administration of the estate. Once the Court has made an order with their decision, the executors must follow the action decided. If they do not, further action can be taken against them and they could be personally liable for legal costs in some cases.
  • If necessary, an application can also be made to substitute or remove an executor. The Court will not take this decision lightly. There must be evidence of their failings to perform the duties correctly or where they have refused to act but will not renounce their position as executor.

Executors should always try to resolve the dispute between them before taking action at Court and obtain independent legal advice if they are unsure about their position.

legal action against executor

How Nelsons can help

Emma Winfield is an Associate in our Dispute Resolution team.

If you require further advice concerning an executor dispute and the legal action that can be taken against an executor, please contact Emma or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.