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What happens in estate administration if an executor has died?

After someone’s death, the executor named in their Will is responsible for winding up their estate. If the executor dies, either before or during the estate administration, there is a process which must be gone through to find and appoint another executor.

The executor of an estate has the onerous task of collecting in estate assets, valuing and selling them, paying off any debts and Inheritance Tax, preparing estate accounts and distributing the estate to the named beneficiaries.

When choosing your executor, you should make sure that you select someone who is capable and who is willing to take on the role, which is usually time-consuming and can be complex. You should also consider appointing someone younger than you so that they are likely to be around to take the job on when the time comes. It is also advisable to appoint two executors, so that, in the event that one of them dies, the other one can administer the estate.

When the only executor dies before you

Ideally, in this situation you should make a new Will, appointing different executors. However, if this hasn’t been possible, then when the time comes, if any executor named in the Will has predeceased you, someone else will need to step in and apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate, giving them the authority to wind up your estate.

The Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 set out in order who is entitled to apply for probate. After the executor themselves, anyone who has been appointed to hold assets in trust for a residuary beneficiary is next, followed by a residuary beneficiary. The list goes on beyond this, should this category of person not be available, but usually it is the case that the main beneficiary or beneficiaries of the estate will take on the role. A maximum of four people can act as executors.

When an executor dies during estate administration

In the event that an executor dies after being issued with a Grant of Representation authorising them to wind up the estate, then the administration can be completed by any other jointly acting executor.

If there was only one executor and they have died, or if other named executors do not wish to act, then the executor named in the deceased executor’s Will is responsible for completing the administration of the estate.

This is called the chain of representation and effectively means that the executor will have to deal with the administration of two estates; the one in which they are named as executor and the original estate.

If the executor dies without making a Will, then the Non-Contentious Probate Rules apply as outlined before.

Appointing executors

To avoid the complicated situation where your estate is left without an executor, it is advisable to appoint two executors in your Will and to review these appointments regularly.

In the event that either of your executors becomes unwell, or the task of administering an estate is likely to be too complex or time-consuming for them to undertake, you should consider appointing a new executor in their place.

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