Probate is the process whereby a Will is approved as a legally valid last testament of a deceased person. It is the legal process of administering an estate after death and in bringing resolution to any claims on the estate so that it can be distributed in accordance with the Will.

Responsibilities of the executor include the following:

  • Valuation of the estate. This includes property valuation, valuation of personal items as well as valuation of assets and pensions etc
  • Management of inheritance tax and other tax liabilities
  • Management and closure of bank accounts
  • Payment of debts and liabilities
  • Collection and preservation of estate assets
  • Grant of probate application
  • Notification of grant of probate to relevant parties
  • Preparation of the estate's final accounts
  • Distribution of the estate

Probate is granted to the executor who then seeks to enforce it; a process which occasionally involves the courts. An executor, as appointed by the testator, can be a family member, a friend or trusted acquaintance or, in many cases, a solicitor.

In some cases probate may be contested by interested parties such as spouses, former spouses, children, stepchildren or another a person who was in some way dependent on the deceased.

If there is a dispute over the way the executors are handling the estate, beneficiaries may wish to remove a particular executor. Executor disputes sometimes occur if interested parties feel that the role is being carried out carelessly, negligently or with self-interest.

If the executor's actions or inactions have caused a person to lose out on money or other assets, the executor may be legally liable for restoring those losses. If you believe that the executor of an estate you have an interest in is not performing his or her role correctly, talk to an Oratto member Will disputes solicitor today about how we may be able to help you uphold your full rights under the law.

Patience is required

Even relatively simple and straightforward estates take time to administer properly; the estate administration process will invariably take at least six months to complete.

This is because there is so much work to do before grant of probate can be achieved: assets must be valued, beneficiaries must be notified, legal boxes must be ticked, inheritance tax must be paid and any contested Will claims must be suitably dealt with.

Executors should ensure that they keep the process relatively transparent. This means keeping interested parties informed and updated in order to minimise the chances of an executor dispute.

Executor disputes

As soon as possible, executors will need to obtain grant of probate to pay off any debts owed by the estate and to itemise and manage the assets so that they can be distributed among the beneficiaries listed in the Will.

Being an executor carries with it a number of important legal responsibilities. Examples of actions that might be considered in breach of these responsibilities and might form the backbone of a successful executor dispute include the following:

  • Selling assets at below their value
  • Dishonest or misleading statements or appraisals
  • Improper distribution of assets or money
  • Failure to follow the testator's instructions
  • Failure to act within reasonable timeframes
  • The executor will not share copies of the Will

Although executor disputes may be less likely if the work is being performed by a professional executor, such as a solicitor or an accountant, they can occur regardless of who is performing the role.

In some cases executors may choose to "renounce" the role of their own volition; this is fine as long as they have not performed any of their executor duties to that point.

Additionally, when there is more than one named executor, one may wish to step down and allow the other named executor/s to carry out the process.

In the event that an executor can't or won't renounce the role but is failing to co-operate or act appropriately, parties may take the executor to court in order to remove him or her from the role.

Oratto's member Will dispute lawyers include many specialists in this niche area of the law and they can help you achieve a successful outcome, whether through negotiation, mediation or, in a minority of cases, recourse to the courts.

The rights of the beneficiary

Beneficiaries have certain rights that must be met by law and failure to ensure these could give rise to an executor dispute.

These rights are designed to ensure that estates are being administered in an appropriate and honest fashion that is in accordance with the Will, or, where no Will has been left, the rules of intestacy.

As a bare minimum, all beneficiaries should be provided with the following information:

  • A legible and complete copy of the Will
  • A copy of the grant of representation
  • Information detailing the value of the estate
  • Complete copies of the estate's accounts

Property dispute Wills solicitor

Oratto's member Wills dispute lawyers can help you consider and act appropriately in situations related to executor disputes or contested probate.

For more information, browse through the profiles of our member Will dispute lawyers Alternatively, try Oratto Match so that we can help you find the specialist best suited to your case and circumstances.

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