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Does being appointed as an executor mean you have to act?

An executor (also known as an Administrator) is a person responsible for dealing with the estate (possessions, property, shares, bank accounts, etc) of a deceased person.

Being appointed as an executor does not necessarily mean being obliged to take up the role. It may be several years from agreeing to be someone’s executor to actually having to carry out those duties.  Over that time circumstances can change and an executor may have less time due to family and work commitments, may live abroad, have poor health or the estate could be problematic with the possibility of a dispute in the family (if certain family members have been left out of a Will, etc.)

Do I have to be an executor, does it mean I have to act? Can I resign my duties as an executor?

Renunciation of an executors duties is a fairly straight forward affair. If an executor wants to give up their right to act completely then they can ‘renounce’ (step down.) from their duties. However, before an executor decides to renounce they have to make sure they have not ‘Intermeddled’ in the estate.  This meaning that they have not carried out any duties that an executor would perform in the course of administering an estate such as settling any debts, selling personal items, etc.  Certain duties can be carried out that are not classed as ‘intermeddling’ such as arranging the funeral, securing a property, etc.  The process to renounce requires the executor to sign a renunciation form which renounces their responsibility of managing the estate as an executor permanently. The renunciation form is then lodged at the Probate Registry along with the application being made by the remaining executor(s) to obtain the Grant of Probate.  Once the application is registered with the Probate Registry the decision of renunciation is only usually reversible in the most exceptional circumstances.

What happens if I cannot act? Can an executor appoint another executor?

If however, an executor is unable to act but does not want to give up the right to administer entirely there are several options available:-

  • If they are unable to act temporarily, for example, they live abroad; it is possible to give a Power of Attorney to another person to act on their behalf. The executor can delegate the functions he/she has to carry out to the attorney.
  • If there are more than two executors appointed and one doesn’t want to act then the executor can have power reserved to them.  This means that they are not currently acting as executor but retain the right to take out a grant at a later date if they need to do so.
  • If someone still wishes to act as executor but finds the actual administration of the estate too onerous or time consuming, they can appoint a solicitor to deal with the administration side on their behalf. The executor remains in control of the estate but obtaining the Grant of Probate, collecting in the assets, settling the debts and distributing the estate, etc is dealt with by the solicitor.

For more information, get in touch with our will and probate team on 0808 163 6647.