I No Longer Want To Be An Executor - What Shall I Do?

If you’ve been named as an Executor in a Will and you’re having second thoughts, then you have various options open to you.

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By Safia Iftikhar - 16th September 2021

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If you decide that you don’t want to act as an Executor, you can renounce your role or ask someone else to do it for you. This could be a friend, family member or a probate solicitor.

Exectors: are you having second thoughts?

Acting as an Executor is an onerous task. Those who have been through it often say they didn't realise exactly what was involved, before committing to the task. If they had, they would have got professional advice before starting the process.

If you’ve been named as an Executor in a Will and you’re having second thoughts, then you have various options open to you. If the person who appointed you is still alive, you should tell them about your change of heart sooner, rather than later. That way, they can amend their Will and appoint somebody else.

If, however, that person has died, then you have four options.

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Firstly, it is possible to renounce your role as Executor. This is done with a Deed of Renunciation, which must be drawn up by a lawyer. If you want to renounce your role, you should do it early on – ideally, before applying for the Grant of Probate. If you intermeddle with the estate, such as paying off debts and distributing personal items, then it might be too late to step down.

Before renouncing, you should ensure there is somebody else available to step in. There may be other Executors who are willing to continue without you. Or, there may be a residuary beneficiary who is prepared to act as administrator and make an application for Letters of Administration with the Will annexed.

Renunciation is a final step and cannot be reversed without a court order.

Power reserved

Secondly, if you don’t want to act as an Executor right now but you might want to in the future, then you could choose to have power reserved to you. This means that the other Executor(s) can carry on without you, but you can step in later on if required.

This is a particularly good option where one Executor lives abroad, but the others live in the UK. Ordinarily, all the Executors have to sign every document, delaying the administration process. But by choosing to have power reserved, the other Executors can continue in your absence. Should anything happen to the other Executors (for example, they pass away), you can resume your role and manage the paperwork.

Attorney Grant

The third option is to take up the appointment, but ask someone else to act on your behalf. This is done by way of an Attorney Grant, which can be revoked at a later date if you want. There are different processes involved depending on whether you have capacity to act. We have done Attorney Grants where English is not the Executor’s first language, and they have therefore appointed a family member who is fluent. We have also made applications where an Executor has lost their capacity to act and their Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney is making the application. The administration is done on your behalf, so you still shoulder responsibility for your Attorney.

Our Wills include a clause that automatically disqualifies somebody who has lost their capacity from acting in the role as Executor, as this simplifies the estate administration. It is unlikely that such a clause would be included in a home made Will.

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Instruct a probate solicitor

Your final option is to instruct a probate solicitor to handle everything for you. This is much the same process described above, whereby you provide your solicitor the authority to act on your behalf. However, you still retain the title of ‘Executor’.

This is a very popular route for those going through probate and estate administration. The process can be very complicated, especially in large estates or where there are overseas assets. You are perfectly entitled to use the services of a professional. This can be a huge relief, removing the burden from your shoulders. With the knowledge that a solicitor is on hand to guide you through the process, you may be happy to act as Executor, so there is no need to step down.

Get legal advice

In any event, we highly recommend that you get legal advice if you’re concerned about acting as an Executor.

Occasionally, Wills include clauses by way of a legacy to an Executor should they act in that role and continue in that role. Consideration should be given to the terms of the Will before you lose the legacy by not undertaking the role.

When writing a Will, it may be that you wish to include a legacy to encourage your Executor to act, particularly if all the money is being left to charity. Charities will step in to carry on an administration, if required.

We are happy to talk through your options before you make any decision. Contact our Probate Solicitors for a free initial enquiry.

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