What to do when an Executor of a Will has died?
4 May 2021 by Natasha Swift
We Can Answer Your Questions about Estate Planning
Estate planning is a serious business. You want to be sure your affairs are settled by someone you trust and that your assets and belongings are distributed to the loved ones you choose. The trained legal experts at Fisher Jones Greenwood can help you make an effective estate plan, which should include a final will and testament, a power of attorney, and any other documents needed to disperse your belongings. You’ll also name an executor of your Will, which will come with questions of its own. We’re here to answer them all and provide you with the advice you need as you make this important plan. Please feel free to contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.
What Is an Executor?
An executor is the person you name in your will to oversee the probate process and handle your estate following your death. You can choose any person you want, including a friend or loved one, but it’s essential that you pick a trustworthy person who you think will do the job correctly and will follow your wishes. You can also choose to name multiple people as executors, and they will then work together to oversee your estate. It’s also a good idea to name numerous people in the event that someone is unable to perform their duties or if one of your named executors passes away.
The Duties of an Executor
When naming an executor, you want to be sure you choose an individual who is willing and able to complete the necessary tasks that come with the role. An executor will have many responsibilities and will be the person overseeing nearly all of your affairs. In order to fulfill their role as executor, the appointed individual will first have to apply for a Grant of Probate. This will grant them the authority to manage the estate and give them access to the deceased’s bank accounts and properties. Once the Grant of Probate is obtained, the primary duties of an executor include:
- Planning the funeral
- Valuing and collecting assets
- Paying the debts of the deceased’s estate
- Paying any owed taxes
- Arranging for the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries
What Happens When an Executor Passes Away?
If the executor of an estate passes away, someone else will have to step in to take over their duties and complete the probate process. However, the answer of who will do so depends on the circumstances of the situation. The timing of the executor’s death will likely be the determining factor in how the replacement is chosen. A new executor will be appointed in the following ways:
- If the Executor Died Before the Deceased: If an executor named in a will died before the deceased, what happens next will depend on what the will says. As long as the deceased has named other executors, the duties will pass to them. In cases where all of the named executors have died before the deceased, then the beneficiaries who are receiving the largest portion of the estate will likely be granted the rights to administer the estate.
- If the Executor Dies After Obtaining the Grant of Probate: If the named executor of a will is alive at the time of death of the deceased, begins the probate process by obtaining the Grant of Probate, and dies after doing so, things can get a bit more complicated. If multiple executors were named, then the responsibility will pass to those named individuals. If multiple executors were not named and the deceased executor held a will, then the “Chain of Representation” will take effect. This means that the executor of the deceased executor will essentially work double duty, as they will be responsible for the estate of the deceased executor as well as the original deceased person. If the deceased executor did not hold a will, then the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 must be followed, and it is likely that the beneficiaries receiving the largest amount will assume responsibility for handling the estate.
Can a Beneficiary Override an Executor?
There are some cases where the deceased’s beneficiaries may feel that the appointed executor is not fulfilling their duties as they should. If you are ever in this situation, you cannot override the executor simply because you feel like it but you can make a case for why you think they should be removed. As a beneficiary, if you believe the executor is doing a poor or careless job of managing the estate, you may be able to use this as grounds for removal. You must be able to demonstrate that the executor should be removed for one of the following reasons:
- The executor is now disqualified from doing their duties as executors. For example, if the named person has been convicted of a crime or sent to prison.
- The executor is no longer capable of performing their duties due to a physical or mental disability.
- The executor is unsuitable for the position. For example, in cases where there is a conflict of interest or serious misconduct, like stealing from the estate or failing to obey a court order.
Contact Fisher Jones Greenwood
If you are interested in learning more about the probate process, naming an executor, or making an estate plan, we encourage you to reach out to our trained legal experts today. We have many years of experience and can help you make an effective plan that will protect your final wishes – call 01206 700113, or email [email protected].