When making a Will, you need to choose who to act on your behalf in the administration of your estate.
This person is known as your Executor and they will be responsible for collecting in and valuing your assets, calculating and paying any tax liabilities, selling or transferring your assets, preparing estate accounts and distributing your estate to your chosen beneficiaries.
The job can be time-consuming and lengthy and it is important to choose your Executor carefully, to ensure you select someone who is willing and able to act on your behalf. If you do not have anyone who you feel would be able to do the job, you can appoint a professional Executor such as a solicitor to carry out the role.
It can happen that your chosen Executor dies before your estate is wound-up, either before or after they start work on the administration. We take a look at what happens in each situation.
Executor dies before Probate is applied for
If your chosen Executor dies during your lifetime, you should update your Will as soon as possible to appoint a new Executor. You can appoint more than one if you wish, to enable a surviving Executor to administer your estate on their own.
If your Executor dies after you but before Probate has been granted, any surviving Executors can make the application. If a sole Executor dies, then a set of rules known as The Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 (the Rules) will determine who is able to deal with the administration.
A residuary beneficiary is usually appointed. If the residuary beneficiary was the Executor who died, then their personal representatives can apply to the court to take over the administration of the estate.
Executor dies after Probate has been granted
If an Executor is partway through an estate administration and has obtained Probate before their death, then the Executors of their estate can wind-up both your estate and your Executor’s estate. This is called a chain of representation.
Where the deceased Executor did not themselves leave a Will however, there is no chain and someone else will need to make an application to the court to take over the estate administration. This person will be chosen in accordance with Rule 20 of the Rules.
The rule sets out in order who is entitled to make an application and it is often the case that it will fall to a residuary beneficiary.
Finding and appointing the right person can be complicated, and it is advisable to seek legal advice to ensure that the correct individual makes the application, particularly as there can be personal liability on the part of an Executor for any errors made in the administration.
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