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Events | 4.04.24

THE ROLE OF AN EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR CAN BE A RISKY BUSINESS!

An executor’s role under a Will is to administer an estate after death and ensure that the beneficiaries receive their inheritance.  If there is no Will, or no executors appointed under a Will are able or want to act, it will be the task of an administrator to ensure that the beneficiaries under the rules of intestacy receive their entitlements from the estate.

Both executors and administrators must identify and ascertain all of the assets and liabilities of an estate as at the date of death. Armed with this information, they may need to apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate, if there is a Will, or letters of administration in the case of an intestacy.  Once either type of grant is obtained, the executor or administrator can call in the assets and arrange to pay any liabilities and expenses before any distributions to beneficiaries are made.

It is possible that the executor/administrator might not be aware of all possible debts and liabilities of the estate and so in order to protect themselves it is advisable for them to place an advert in the Law Gazette and paper local to where the deceased lived.  Creditors are given a deadline, usually around two months from the date of the advert, to come forward.  Once the deadline has passed the executor/administrator can distribute the estate without fear of personal liability to unknown creditors who come forward at a later date.

Another risk that executors and administrators should be aware of is the possibility of overlooking unknown beneficiaries of an estate who could come forward after the estate has been distributed. For instance, illegitimate children. If this does happen the executor/administrator could be personally liable to that beneficiary for their entitlement under the estate.  It is therefore very important that executors/administrators take all necessary steps to identify all of the beneficiaries of the estate they are dealing with. This might involve using genealogists or private investigators.

A further risk is the possibility that despite all of the beneficiaries under the Will or intestacy being identified, other individuals could come forward to make a claim against the estate, either because they were dependent on the deceased, or because they allege the deceased’s Will is invalid due to undue influence. Again, if the correct procedures are not followed in relation to these claims the executors or administrators could be personally liable to the claimants.

The role of executor or administrator can be complicated and there is always a degree of risk. If you would like more information about administering an estate or the role of executor or administrator, please contact your usual Wansbroughs contact or e-mail Wansbroughs’ private client team at wealth@wansbroughs.com.