During the administration of an Estate, there may be disputes that arise between the Executors administering the Estate and the beneficiaries. It may be perceived that an Executor is being obstructive or deliberately delaying the administration of the Estate and it is open to a beneficiary to have the Executor removed and a substitute appointed. This can be a complex area of law, and our expert contested probate solicitors are able to advise on the process of looking to contest or remove an Executor.
Most frequently the removal of an Executor occurs after a Grant of Probate has been obtained. The application must be made to the High Court. Written evidence is required setting out the grounds of the claim including brief details of what the Estate comprises and its approximate value, details of any liabilities of the Estate, details of the beneficiaries and any proposed substituted personal representatives.
The Court has the discretion to appoint one or more new personal representatives in place of an existing Executor or to terminate the appointment of one or more – but not all – of them, unless appointing a substitute.
In exercising its discretion the Court will need to consider the merits of both sides’ arguments relating to the removal and also to take into account the beneficiaries’ views and interest in the Estate as a whole.
In the event of there being no misconduct on the part of the Executor, it does not necessarily ensure the security of the Executors’ appointment. In the event that relations between Executor and Beneficiary have broken down so severely, the Court can nevertheless decide, even in the absence of any misconduct, the most appropriate course to ensure the administration of the Estate in the interest of all beneficiaries could be to remove all current Executors and replace them with a professional appointment.
It is possible to remove an Executor before a Grant of Representation has been obtained. This formality is usually under Section 116 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, but more recently following a Judgment of Goodman V Goodman (2013) also under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985. This Judgment provides clarification regarding the overlapping nature of the different powers within these Acts.
The power in Section 116 is more suited to situations where the persons with the highest entitlement to take a Grant are unwilling to act and a person with lower entitlement wishes to take action to move the administration forward.
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