UK Disputed Wills

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DUTIES OF AN EXECUTOR – APPOINTMENT UNDER A WILL

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The executor is the individual charged with the responsibility of carrying out the terms of the deceased's will. Testators can name an executor in their will who can be virtually anyone, a friend, family member, bank, accountant or solicitor. The duties of an executor are carried out using a wide range of powers conferred on them by law and by the testator in the will. They must collect the deceased's assets, pay outstanding liabilities and distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the directives of the will. Because of the intense and complex nature of these responsibilities, it is common for the appointed individual to hire a solicitor to perform the duties of an executor on their behalf.

Most people die with a considerable amount of assets in their possession. Preparing and executing a legally binding will is the only way to ensure that those assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Using a solicitor to prepare the document is the only way to be sure that you are leaving behind an enforceable will. Your solicitor will work with you one-on-one to draft a will that precisely outlines your wishes. In your will, you also take the important step of selecting the person who will carry out the duties of an executor and who will manage and distribute your assets.

Not everyone dies with a will in place (intestate). When someone dies intestate, there are rules that direct how their assets will be distributed. These rules define the degree of relationship a potential beneficiary has to the deceased, and these degrees of relationship are what determines who receives the deceased's assets. If there are no qualifying relatives under the rules governing intestacy, the Crown may step in to claim the assets. Rather than an executor, the estate of a decedent who dies intestate has an administrator. What would have been the duties of an executor where a will is present are carried out by the administrator and are very similar in nature. The court issues the individual a Grant of Administration, which is a document giving the administrator power to deal with the estate.

DIY wills can be a tempting alternative to using a solicitor. However, drafting and executing a valid will is much more complicated than simply putting words down on a page. Those who attempt to go the DIY route may unknowingly step into one of the many legal snares awaiting the inexperienced. There is an entire industry of solicitors who make their living by sorting through the contentious probate that follows an invalid DIY will. In the event that the latest will is discredited then an earlier will may take precedence which means that the duties of an executor may be carried out by a person unintended by the testator, distributing assets to people who may have fallen out of favour with the testator. These are some of the errors most frequently made in DIY wills:-
  • failure to sign and execute the document in accordance with all of the legal specifications
  • failure to distribute all of the assets of the estate, which enables the Crown to claim the undistributed property
  • failure to follow the legal mandates for a binding codicil when making alterations to the contents of the will
  • failure to account for life-changing events such as births, deaths, marriage, divorce and the Civil Partnership Act
  • failure to properly provide for the testator's dependents

Our solicitors specialise in all matters related to probate, will making and Grants of Administration. Our solicitors are qualified to handle contentious cases, such as questions over the validity of a will or claims to the estate made by a non-beneficiary. For a free consultation, complete and send the contact form or call us on our helpline. You will speak with one of our experienced solicitors who will provide you with no charge, no obligation advice about your case.


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