Avoiding Conflicts as a Joint Executor
07 November 2019
An Executor can be appointed in a Will to administer an Estate on their own, or they can be appointed to act jointly with another person. If the Will names joint Executors, it's imperative that the acting Executors work well together and avoid conflict during Probate. However, this can be easier said than done.
In this article, we explain some of the best ways to avoid conflict when acting as a joint Executor. We will consider some of the common difficulties faced by joint Executors, and look at some of the ways in which they can be overcome.
The role of Executor is an important one that carries a significant amount of responsibility. For this reason, appointing multiple Executors to act together is a common approach. This allows the Executors to share the load, and also means that there is a contingency in place in case one Executor is unable or unwilling to act when the time comes.
However, sometimes joint Executors might disagree on how to do things during the administration of an Estate. This can often lead to unpleasant disputes and, in turn, hold up the Probate process, because all acting Executors need to agree before things can move forward.
Many of these disputes can be easily been avoided.
How Can Joint Executors Avoid Conflict?
The role of Executor is to carry out the wishes of the Testator (the person who made the Will) and distribute their Estate in accordance with the terms of the Will and the law.
Usually, this involves:
- Collecting and safeguarding the Estate's assets
- Settling any debts associated with the Estate
- And finally, distributing the Estate in accordance with the Will and the law
There are any number of reasons why conflict might arise between joint Executors. They could disagree on how the Estate should be administered, for example, or there could simply be existing tensions which cause the relationship to deteriorate during the Probate process.
Often, disagreements between joint Executors can be easily avoided.
One way to minimise the risk of conflict is to maintain regular communication between all acting Executors. This builds trust and also gives both parties room to air and resolve any concerns they may have. It also means that everyone knows what's happening at all times.
Ultimately, the Executor has a duty to act in the best interests of the Beneficiaries. It's important to remember this if a dispute arises during the administration of the Estate. If there's more than one possible course of action, then it's important to favour the option that will have the best outcome for the Beneficiaries.
There's also the option of employing a professional Executor, such as a Probate Specialist, to administer the Estate. The professional will take care of all the legal, tax and other administrative work on the Estate, on behalf of the Executors. This relieves the joint Executors of the personal liability and emotional burden of doing this work themselves.
Benefits of Appointing a Professional Executor
A professional Executor is specialised in Probate law, and has the necessary expertise to carry out all of the required Probate work on the Estate. They will charge a fee for this service, which will simply be deducted from the Estate funds as an administration expense.
In addition, a professional Executor does not have any personal connection with the Estate – their job is to ensure they administer the Estate in accordance with the law and the terms of the Will. There is not the emotional involvement of family members or friends who have been appointed as joint Executors, which is what often leads to potential conflict.
If an Executor doesn't want to act during Probate, they do not have to. They can renounce (refuse or resign), leaving the other Executors to administer the Estate without them, or they can have Power Reserved to them. For more information, see What if an Executor Doesn't Want to Act?