What Happens when Joint Executors Disagree?
10 April 2019
When multiple Executors act together on the administration of an Estate, disagreements can sometimes arise. Joint Executors will need to resolve these disputes and act in agreement in order for Probate to move forward. If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiations, and a Grant of Representation has already been issued by the Probate Court, then it is possible for one Executor to apply to the Court to remove the other.
What Might Executors Disagree On?
Probate is a lengthy and sometimes complex process, during which Executors are likely to be faced with a number of decisions to make. If all of the Executors don't see things in the same light then disagreements can arise which, if not resolved, could cause the Probate process to grind to a complete standstill.
This could be a decision such as whether to sell a property on the open market or allow a beneficiary to purchase it, for example. Or if the property market is slow, one Executor may want to hold off on selling the property in the hope of achieving a higher sale price, while another may want to progress the sale for a lower amount so that the beneficiaries receive their inheritance sooner.
In other situations, Executors may disagree on what constitutes an administration expense and is therefore payable from the Estate, or one Executor could do something without the consent of the other. These are just a few examples of potential disputes that could arise between joint Executors.
One of the most effective ways of avoiding conflict during Probate is to communicate. If multiple Executors are acting together, it's really important that they communicate with one another on a regular basis, and that they also communicate with beneficiaries to keep them updated on what's happening.
If joint Executors think that they may not be able to act alongside one another, one of the Executors can step aside before the Estate administration begins. There are two options to do this; they can either renounce as Executor, which means that they give up the role and responsibilities permanently, or later when the Grant of Representation is issued, they can have Power Reserved to them, which means that they are stepping aside but can apply to the Court to become involved at a later stage if they wish. For more information, see What if an Executor Doesn't Want to Act?
If neither Executor wants to step down, but they also don't want to act together, then it can be put to the Probate Court to determine who should apply for Probate.
If disagreements do arise, then these will need to be resolved in order for the Estate administration to continue to progress smoothly. Again, communication is key here – if Executors talk through any issues, they may be able to come to a mutual agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached this way, the next step would be for each Executor to seek independent legal advice.
If an agreement still cannot be reached, and the Estate administration cannot be progressed as a result, then it may be possible to for one Executor to apply to the Court to have the other removed. Under the Administration of Justice Act 1985, the Court has a discretionary power to remove an Executor from the Grant of Representation if they believe this to be in the best interests of the Estate. They also have the power to appoint a substitute Executor in their place, but if there is already another appointed Executor ready and willing to act, this may not be necessary.
Appointing a Professional
Joint Executors can choose to jointly appoint a professional Probate specialist, such as Co-op Legal Services, to deal with Probate on their behalf. This means that an impartial professional will carry out the Probate work, taking instructions from the joint Executors and keeping the Executors and beneficiaries updated throughout the process.
This can help to reduce disputes between joint Executors, as a professional will be taking the reins, explaining the options available and providing advice and guidance on the best way to proceed.