Many people think about making a will but never quite get round to it. Newspapers are full of articles about cases involving disgruntled families arguing about the estate of a family member who has died. There are many reasons to make a will including ensuring that assets go to the correct people, benefiting charities and taking steps which could mitigate tax payable on death. Another reason to make a will is to choose who will administer the estate on death. The person/s appointed to administer the estate is called a Personal Representative.
Many people decide to appoint partners in a law firm to deal with the administration of the estate because the process has become more complex in recent years, particularly if any tax is payable on death. Personal Representatives carry personal liability for ensuring that the estate is properly administered and that any tax due to HMRC is properly paid. For this reason, many laypeople are more than happy for a professional executor to deal with the administration of the estate on the death of a loved one.
However, a recent case is a useful reminder that having a professional executor in place is not always necessary or appropriate. In the case, a law firm was appointed in a will to act as the Personal Representative in relation to the estate. However, the deceased's daughter considered that the administration of the estate was straightforward and requested that the law firm decline to act as Personal Representative. The firm refused to do so and the daughter took them to court and was successful. The firm was removed as Personal Representative and had to pay a large legal bill as they lost the case.
The case is an important reminder that a professional executor must keep the interests of the estate in mind at all times and that they should take any request to renounce probate seriously.
The case is an important reminder to those wanting to make a will that they should consider very carefully who they would like to appoint as the Personal Representatives. Someone may have very good reasons to want a professional executor in place, perhaps because there is discord between family members. In this instance, the person making the will should give detailed instructions to their law firm explaining their reasoning. In the event of a disagreement after death, these notes could be very important in determining the wishes of the deceased.
To discuss this or any other probate matter, please contact us.