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When an Executor fails to deal with the administration of a Will

If the administration of an estate is delayed because an Executor stops responding, it can be frustrating for everyone.

A Will may name one or more Executors whose job it is to deal with the winding-up of the deceased’s affairs and the distribution of assets.

Before the administration begins, each Executor must decide whether they are willing and able to act. It is important to think this through carefully as it is difficult to withdraw partway through the administration.

Deciding not to act

If a joint Executor does not wish to take on the task, then they can renounce the role or alternatively request that power to be reserved to them, which means they can ask to act later if they choose. These decisions must be made before any action is taken in administering the estate.

Stepping down partway through administration

If an Executor wishes to cease acting during the administration it can be difficult to have themselves removed. There is a rule that once someone has ‘intermeddled’ in an estate, they cannot retire from the position of Executor.

For this reason, it is important to understand exactly what is required of an Executor before taking on the role. They are required to collect in and value all of the deceased’s assets, arrange for payment of any debts, calculate and pay any tax liabilities, prepare estate accounts and distribute the net estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will. There can be personal liability for failure to act correctly in the administration.

When writing a Will and choosing Executors it is important to ensure they know what the role entails and that they believe they will have the time and capacity to take on the job.

If you do not have anyone who is willing to act as your Executor, you can appoint a professional to act on behalf of your estate.

Dealing with an unresponsive Executor

When an Executor stops responding to communications partway through an administration, it can be very problematic. There is a time limit for completion of estate administration and any other Executors will be mindful of facing accusations of failing to carry out their duties, as well as the potential for penalties arising from late payment of tax and other debts. Beneficiaries will also be keen for the administration to be finalised.

It is important to try everything to attempt to re-establish contact with an unresponsive Executor and see if an agreement can be reached with them to conclude the process. Failing that, it may be necessary to apply to the court to have the Executor removed. The court will take into account the best interests of the estate and any beneficiaries when reaching a decision.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and Probate solicitors, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at

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