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Renunciation as Executor of a Will

10th January 2017

By Head of Probate, Gavin Holt

For free initial advice and guidance call our Probate Advisors on 03306069584 or contact us online and we will help you.

What happens if Executors do not want to act, or if the family doesn’t want an Executor to be involved?

As an Executor named in a Will you have to deal with the property, money, possessions and debts (known as the Estate) of the person who has died, and you have to make sure that the beneficiaries named in the Will receive everything that they are entitled to.

An Executor has to deal with a lot of paperwork for Inheritance Tax and Probate.

Because the role of an Executor is such an important job, people usually appoint trusted relatives or friends as their Executors. Sometimes though, people appoint professional Executors, such as Solicitors, accountants and 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 act as Executor so that no one in the family can take over and have their own way. Thankfully, those situations are quite rare.


If an Executor does not want to get involved in dealing with the Estate, they do not have to.  They might be elderly, unwell, or simply not have the time.

If an Executor wants to free themselves of the responsibility of dealing with an Estate in England or Wales, they need to sign a document called a Renunciation. That’s a legal word, but it basically means that they are resigning from the job of Executor. Once they have signed the Renunciation (officially called renouncing), their appointment as Executor is cancelled, and someone else – usually one or more of the beneficiaries named in the Will – has to step in and do the job instead.

If an Executor wants to renounce, they should do it as soon as possible after the person dies and before getting involved in the Estate administration process. Things can get complicated if an Executor starts dealing with an Estate but then decides they don’t want to be involved. It is much better to make the decision early on.

A Renunciation is a legal document and so it must be drawn up correctly. It’s better to have it drawn up by an expert, such as a Probate Solicitor, as that way you can have the peace of mind of knowing that it was done properly and legally. 

Renouncing does not stop you from being a beneficiary of a Will, it only affects your appointment as an Executor.

So what happens if there is a professional Executor named in the Will, but the family and/or the beneficiaries do not want them to be involved? Perhaps because you’d rather deal with the Estate yourself, or because you’d rather choose someone who charges a fixed fee to help you.

Just because they are named in the Will as an Executor, that doesn’t mean they have to deal with the Estate for you. It is true that, legally, you can’t ‘force’ an Executor to sign a Renunciation. If you think they’ve done something wrong, you might be able to get them removed from the Will, but you’d need to take specialist legal advice about that, as it can be very complicated.

In normal situations, it's always best to speak to the professional Executor, or the firm they work for, and explain to them that you would like them to renounce. More often than not, they'll agree. There's usually a fee, as there is some work involved, but it should be a reasonable fee – a few hundred pounds at the most – as it does not take very long to draw up a renunciation.

For people who are experienced in dealing with Probate, such as our specialist Probate Solicitors, it is actually a reasonably straightforward document to prepare. Here at Co-op Legal Services, we prepare Renunciations all the time. The price of a Renunciation can actually prove to be very cheap, as you can save a lot of money by shopping around and finding the right Probate Solicitor for you.

Sometimes, professional Executors will refuse to renounce. If it’s a family feud situation, they are probably right to say no. But in most situations, including complicated Estates, they will have to think very carefully about whether they want to deal with the Estate against the wishes of the family and/or beneficiaries. That’s not something we do at Co-op Legal Services as having a good relationship with our customers all the way through the Probate process is very important to us.

For free initial advice and guidance call our Probate Advisors on 03306069584 or contact us online and we will call you.

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