An executor is in a difficult position where disputes between beneficiaries arise and professional advice should be sought to ensure that the executor takes the correct steps to protect the estate assets and their own position.
This depends upon whether you are a beneficiary of a specific legacy (a specific gift of money, property or a particular item) or whether you are the residuary beneficiary. However, in a nutshell, a beneficiary has an enforceable right to the estate being correctly administered under the terms of the will or intestacy. If the estate is not being correctly administered, you can take action against the executors to ensure that it is. If estate assets suffer a loss due to negligent or dishonest conduct by the beneficiary the executor can be held personally liable for those losses. A beneficiary also has a right to receive certain information from the executor to enable him to assess whether the estate is being correctly administered. This depends upon what type of beneficiary you are.
You are in an important role which carries with it responsibilities and the potential for personal liability. For this reason, if there are questions about the will or disputes arising between the beneficiaries or between you and the beneficiaries you should seek professional advice as soon as possible. For a list of your responsibilities a executor, please visit our estate administration page
If you are the beneficiary of a will and the executor does not appear to be doing his job – in other words, you do not think that the executor is taking the right steps (or any steps) to obtain the grant of representation and administer the estate there are steps that you can take. See our FAQ above: what are my rights as a beneficiary? Sometimes, it might be simply that the executor is not being transparent about what they are doing when in fact they are taking the right steps.
You can refuse to act if you do not think that it is appropriate to do so by signing a deed of renunciation.
If you are a beneficiary of an estate and you are worried about the potential conduct of an executor who has been appointed under a will or about the person who wants to apply to administer an estate where there is no will, there is a process that you can follow to prevent that person from taking out a grant of representation. This starts with lodging a caveat at the probate registry (court). If you take this step, the intended executor can respond (by lodging what is called a ‘warning’) and if they do so, you must respond with good reason why they should not apply. A caveat only lasts 6 months. It is often the first step taken where there is a will dispute and so if you are the executor of a will where a caveat has been lodged, you should take advice as soon as possible.