Renunciation as Executor of a Will
26 February 2020
By Head of Probate, Gavin Holt
What happens if Executors do not want to act, or if the family doesn't want an Executor to be involved? Renunciation as Executor is one available option. In this article, I explain what this means and how it can be done.
What is an Executor and What Do They Do?
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. You also have to make sure that the Beneficiaries named in the Will receive everything they are entitled to.
Because the role of 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 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.
Another common reason for appointing professional Executors is if there is a family feud. 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. This way that no one in the family can take over the process themselves. Thankfully, these situations are quite rare.
Renunciation as Executor
If a named 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 permanently free themselves of the responsibility of dealing with an Estate in England or Wales, they need to sign a document called a Deed of Renunciation. This basically means that they are resigning from the job of Executor. Once they have renounced by signing the Deed of Renunciation, their appointment as Executor is cancelled. Someone else – usually one or more of the Beneficiaries named in the Will – will then have to step in and do the job instead.
If an Executor wants to renounce, they should do so as soon as possible and refrain from becoming 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.
Renouncing as Executor does not stop you from being a Beneficiary of a Will, it only affects your appointment as an Executor.
A Deed of Renunciation is a legal document and so it must be drawn up correctly. It's best to have this drawn up by a legal expert, such as a Probate Solicitor, to give you peace of mind that everything has been done properly and legally.
Professional Executors and Renunciation
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? This could be because they'd rather deal with the Estate themselves or because they'd rather choose someone who charges a fixed fee to help instead.
Just because a professional is named in the Will as an Executor doesn't mean they have to deal with the Estate.
In most 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. This should be a few hundred pounds at the most.
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.
Legally you can't 'force' an Executor to sign a Renunciation. If you believe an Executor has done something wrong you might be able to get them removed from the Will, but you'd need to take specialist legal advice on that as it can be very complicated.
How to Get a Deed of Renunciation Drafted
For people who are experienced in dealing with Probate, such as our specialist Probate Solicitors, a Deed of Renunciation is actually a reasonably straightforward document to prepare. Here at Co-op Legal Services, we prepare these documents all the time. The price of a Deed of 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.