Can a beneficiary remove/replace an executor or administrator?
If you are a beneficiary, you are entitled to apply to the Court to seek the removal/replacement of an executor or administrator. However, whether you succeed in this application is another matter entirely.
An executor is appointed by the will of an individual who has passed away (the deceased). An administrator is appointed where the deceased has failed to leave a valid will. Collectively, they are known as “Personal Representatives”.
The primary role of a Personal Representative is to collect the assets of the deceased, pay off their liabilities and properly distribute the estate according to the terms of the will or rules of intestacy (if there is no valid will).
Personal Representatives also have strict duties to avoid conflicts of interests, produce proper estate accounts and to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and the estate. This applies even in circumstances where the Personal Representative is also a beneficiary of the estate.
If you are a beneficiary and believe that a Personal Representative is failing to progress the administration or is acting against your interests, you may wish to consider a Court application to remove/replace them. In some cases, this is the only way to progress the administration. It can also sometimes be the only way to protect the assets in the estate.
If there has been misconduct, the replacement Personal Representative can also investigate the wrongdoing and (if appropriate) bring a claim against the individual removed to recover any financial loss caused to the estate.
If a Grant has been taken out from the Probate Registry, a beneficiary will need to apply to the Court under s50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 to achieve this outcome. The section gives the Court the power to remove or replace a Personal Representative where there is a Grant.
However, the Court does not exercise this power lightly. It will not remove a Personal Representative simply because there has been a falling out and the beneficiaries do not want them to continue. Beneficiaries have no automatic right to removal even if they are in unanimous agreement.
The key consideration for the Court is whether the Personal Representative can properly administer the estate. If a beneficiary can show that there has been misconduct by the Personal Representative or that the existing hostility will make it impossible for the estate to be properly administered, they are likely to succeed.
We would recommend that you seek legal advice before commencing any Court proceedings to remove or replace a Personal Representative. It is always desirable to try and resolve disputes at an early stage to save stress, time and legal costs.
If you want advice on removing a Personal Representative, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our contentious probate team.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*