I Don’t Want to Handle Probate – Do I Have To?
14 February 2019
If you are the person responsible for carrying out Probate, but you don't want to take on this role then it's usually possible for you to step down, providing that you haven't already intermeddled in the Estate.
The process for stepping down as Personal Representative differs depending on whether or not the deceased left a Will.
The Role of Personal Representative Explained
After someone dies, there is work that needs to be carried out to wind up their affairs, pay off their outstanding debts and distribute their Estate to those entitled to inherit it. This process is commonly referred to as Probate and the person responsible for carrying out Probate is called the Personal Representative.
If the deceased left a Will, then this will name one or more 'Executors' and these are the people that the deceased has chosen to act as their Personal Representatives. If the deceased died without a valid Will in place (called dying 'intestate') then inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine who should act as the 'Administrator' of the Estate. ('Administrator' is the name for the Personal Representative when there is no Will.)
The role of Executor or Administrator brings with it a significant amount of responsibility as well as around 70-100 hours of legal, tax and administrative work, usually over several months. If any mistakes are made, then the Executor or Administrator can be held personally liable for these mistakes. For more information, see Executor / Administrator Duties Explained.
With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excluding VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.
Stepping Down as an Executor of an Estate
If you have been named by the deceased as an Executor of the Will, but you do not want to take on this role, then it may be possible for you to 'renounce' your position. Renouncing as Executor means that you give up the role and all of its responsibilities on a permanent basis.
It is only possible for you to renounce as Executor if you have not yet applied for the Grant of Probate or intermeddled in the Estate in any way. There are no official guidelines setting out exactly what will be classed as intermeddling, but this generally refers to work that the Executor does on the Estate before the Grant of Probate has been issued. This could include actions such as marketing the deceased's property, managing their business or settling debts, for example.
Assuming that you've not applied for the Grant of Probate or intermeddled in the Estate, then you can renounce as Executor of the Estate by signing a legal document called a Deed of Renunciation. Once signed, this deed will need to be filed with the Probate Registry either by you or by one of the Personal Representatives who will be acting. Once this has been done, you will no longer be an Executor of the Estate.
Stepping Down as an Administrator of an Estate
If the deceased didn't leave a Will, then the Rules of Intestacy determine who has authority to act as the Administrator of the Estate. These rules place the deceased's relatives in order of priority, starting with their spouse, then their children and so on. This means that there will usually be more than one person who can act as Administrator in each category of priority.
If there is only one person in the highest category of authority, such as a spouse, they should renounce their position by signing a Deed of Renunciation. However, if there are a number of people in the highest category; for example, there are three children but no spouse, and one of the children doesn't want to act as Administrator, then they can simply choose not to do so. If there's more than one person in the same category (such as the children), any of these can choose to apply for Probate. This will be granted on a first come first served basis.
Get Help from a Probate Specialist
If you are the Personal Representative of an Estate and you need help with the legal, tax and administrative work that Probate entails, you can instruct a Probate Specialist to help you.
At Co-op Legal Services, with our Probate Complete Service our Probate team can take full responsibility for carrying out the legal, tax and administrative work on your behalf. We provide a fixed fee Probate quotation before any work begins, so that you know exactly where you stand from the start.