Overzealous Executor Faces Cost Penalty

Choosing the wrong executor for your will can create considerable problems, as a recent case shows.

A woman had appointed two executors to administer her estate. One was her son, the other a professional. The two did not see eye to eye and the professional began making demands of the son to explain withdrawals from the woman's building society account prior to her death and making accusations that she had been neglected.

He then proceeded to carry out an investigation and even informed the police, who found that there were no grounds on which to take any action. The professional then raised bills on the estate for this work and invited the son to take a lesser share of the estate as the investigation had concerned him alone.

Needless to say, there was no meeting of minds over that suggestion either and, inevitably, the argument ended up in court when the son refused to countenance the charges.

The High Court had to consider whether the bills were fair – it decided that they were excessive – and whether the investigation work was warranted at all.

The issue of the investigation work was clear: the beneficiaries under the will had not requested an investigation to be carried out and the Court considered that doing so was not part of the co-executor's duties.

As well as the unpaid bills, the professional was faced with a considerable legal costs order and also, exceptionally, was removed from his position as co-executor.

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