It is rare for Courts to remove Executors. They have been appointed by the Testator and so one usually must demonstrate that the Executor has been at fault or that there is a good reason for their removal.
In the recent interesting case of Heath v Heath, the Court was satisfied that, despite there being no fault, there was a good reason to remove the Executor.
In the case, Rachael Heath died leaving her estate equally between her three sons and appointing them all as Executors. Two of her sons, Dominic and Jeremy, had successful medical careers whereas the third son, Timothy, who was a mathematics graduate and a qualified Barrister, had stayed in the family home where he had lived since the age of 10, applying himself to creative projects and helping to run a Society devoted to William Blake.
Timothy said that, for the last eight years of his mother’s life when she had dementia, he was an unpaid live-in carer whereas his two brothers saw their mother very infrequently.
As a result, Timothy said that whilst his brothers were both wealthy, he did not own a house, have a pension or even a steady income. Therefore, he claimed that he deserved a bigger share of the estate.
The Judge accepted that Timothy was acting as one of three full-time carers for his mother and said that he was “not satisfied that Timothy had acted in any way improperly” and nor did he accept that that he had acted deliberately in any attempt to frustrate Probate. However, he was of the view that there was an irreconcilable conflict between Timothy having a claim against the estate on the one hand and being an Executor on the other and so ordered Timothy to step down and be replaced by an independent solicitor. Interestingly, he ordered Timothy’s two brothers to pay £25,000 costs of bringing the application to remove their brother.
Whilst the case is unusual it is demonstration that a Judge has a wide discretion and can make whatever decision he believes to be in the best interests of the estate.