How to Renounce as an Executor

01 July 2019

There are a number of reasons an executor may not wish to be involved in probate process. In order to free themselves of this responsibility they can sign a document called a deed of renunciation. This article explains how this document works and when it is used.

Who Is Usually Appointed as an Executor?

When someone makes a will, they can name the person (or people) that they would like to be responsible for winding up their affairs and fulfilling the terms of their will. This person is called the executor of their estate.

The role of executor is an important one, so people usually appoint trusted relatives or friends as their executors. Sometimes though, people appoint professional executors, such as solicitors, accountants or banks. This can be because they have nobody else to appoint or because they have really complicated affairs and there is a need to have experts involved from the beginning.

Family feuds are another common reason for appointing professional executors. If there are likely to be arguments over the Will and who gets what, it can be helpful to have an independent professional acting as executor so that no one in the family can take over and have their own way. Thankfully, those situations are quite rare.

The role of executor can be demanding and involves the executor taking on a certain amount of risk. They will need to deal with any properties, money, possessions and debts of the person who has passed away, and ensure all the beneficiaries named in the will receive what they are entitled to. They will also need to complete and sign all the paperwork for Inheritance Tax, including calculating and paying any tax that's due, and they will be responsible for applying for the grant of probate (if required).

What Happens If an Executor Doesn't Want to Act?

So what happens if executors do not want to act? There are a number of reasons an executor might not wish to be involve in dealing with an estate - they may be elderly, unwell or simply not have the time.

In order to permanently free themselves of the responsibility of dealing with an estate in England and Wales, an executor will need to sign a document called a deed of renunciation. This is officially called 'renouncing.'

Once an executor has signed a deed of renunciation, their appointment as Executor is cancelled and someone else will need to step in and take over the role. If there are no other named executors, then this will usually be one or more of the named beneficiaries in the will.

As a deed of renunciation is a legal document, it must be drawn up correctly. It is recommended that an expert, such as a probate solicitor, does this so you have peace of mind knowing it has been done properly and legally. At Co-op Legal Services, our probate specialists prepare deeds of renunciation all the time.

If the executor is also named as a beneficiary, renouncing does not affect their entitlement, only their appointment as executor.

Another option available to an executor who does not want to act is having power reserved to them. This means they are stepping aside but can apply to become involved in the estate administration at a later date. This is different to renunciation, which is permanent

What Happens if the Family Wants a Professional Executor to Step Down?

What happens if there is a professional executor in the will and the family does not want them to act? Maybe they want to deal with the estate themselves, or they want to use a firm who charges a fixed fee.

Just because they are named in the Will as an executor doesn't mean they have to deal with the estate.

In most cases if you speak to the professional executor, or the firm they work for, and explain that you do not wish for them to act they will usually agree. They may charge a fee to produce and sign the renunciation, which shouldn't be more than a few hundred pounds.

Sometimes, professional executors will refuse to renounce. It is true that, legally, you can't 'force' an executor to sign a Renunciation. However in certain circumstances you might be able to get them removed by the Court. You would need to obtain specialist independent legal advice before taking this route, as it can be very complicated.

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