It is reported that the claims against executors for mishandling estates tripled last year.
People often appoint friends or relatives to act as executors in an attempt to save money, but this can actually lead to greater expense at the end of the day if a mishandled estate lands up before the courts.
‘Mishandling’ by executors covers a multitude of sins and may simply be a result of failure to understand how exacting the role is and ignorance of the law, but far more seriously could amount to intentional theft or fraud.
Non professional executors may not for example, appreciate that failure to realise assets in a timely way could lead to losses for which they would be personally accountable to the beneficiaries. They also need to follow certain steps in dealing with the deceased’s creditors or face the possibility of having to pay the creditors themselves.
It may be very tempting to executors who are relatives of the deceased to want to keep money within the family (indeed they could be put under family pressure) and therefore to ignore or suppress provision in the deceased’s will for people outside the family when distributing the estate. By doing so the executors are in breach of their legal responsibilities.
With more people owning property and the value of such property generally having increased there is every chance that executors will be dealing with large sums of money and with it comes the temptation and opportunity to siphon off funds for themselves.
Trying to recover money from a defaulting non professional executor may prove fruitless if they have no funds left.
As well as having knowledge and experience, a professional executor such as a solicitor will be independent and would not have any personal stake in the estate. Furthermore, they would be subject to regulation and be covered by professional indemnity insurance. Of course, a professional will expect to charge for their work but appointing a non-professional could turn out to be far more expensive in the long term
The moral is to exercise due care and consideration in appointing executors and not necessarily making what seems to be the cheapest choice…. it may come back to bite your heirs!
For further advice on choosing the right executors, or any other legal matter for your personal needs, please contact a member of our Personal Law team at SAS Daniels on 0161 475 7676.