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What happens if an executor ignores their duties?

Posted on 23rd September 2022 in Probate & Wills, Later Life Planning

Posted by

Sue Halfyard

Partner & Chartered Legal Executive
What happens if an executor ignores their duties?

The Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) have recently reported a case in the England and Wales High Court (EWHC) where an executor faces jail time for ignoring their duties and failing to act.

The Court has ordered the three-month imprisonment of an executor for deliberately ignoring a court order requiring them to fulfil their duties as the deceased’s sole executor, and distribute the estate to the two other beneficiaries.

The executor sold the deceased's house in April 2020, however they have not given the beneficiaries their share of the estate, because they had ‘buried their head in the sand.’

However, the EWHC suspended execution of the committal order until 10 October 2022 to give the executor 'one last chance' to comply.

The case shows the importance of carrying out duties as an executor.


What happens if an executor does not respond?

The executor has a duty to carry out their work in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries. If an executor breaches this duty, then they can be held personally liable for their mistakes, usually with a financial claim made against them, which can be substantial.

The best way to ensure an executor is carrying out their duty is to give them a citation. If the executor does not respond to the citation, then they lose their entitlement to act as executor, and the person who is next in line can apply.


What is a citation?

A citation is a notice calling on someone to carry out a specific act. A citation be served by a beneficiary on an executor who has failed to start work on the estate administration. There are three main types of citation;

  • Citation to accept or refuse a grant
  • Citation to take probate
  • Citation to propound a Will


Can an executor be removed?

In short, yes. This is generally done through negotiation led by a legal expert. However, if this does not work it is possible to ask the court to remove an executor or administrator who is failing in their role.

This is only done if the executor has taken some action in administering the estate but you are either not happy with their progress, or you do not believe that they have been acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries.


Find out more

If you need assistance as an executor of an estate, or if you are a beneficiary and the executor is not fulfilling their duties to administer the estate, then our expert lawyers would be happy to assist.

Contact our legal experts

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