What if an Executor Doesn’t Want to Act?

06 March 2019

When there are multiple executors named in a will and one executor doesn't wish to act, it may be possible for them to renounce, or to have power reserved to them. Power reserved means that the executor who doesn't want to act won't need to, but they can choose to become involved at a later stage if they wish. Renouncing as executor means giving up the role and responsibilities of executor.

Choosing Not to Act as an Executor

If you have been named in a will as one of several executors, you may not have to apply for probate if another executor wishes to deal with the work instead. There are several ways in which you can do this. One option is to renounce as executor. Alternatively, a sensible approach may be to have your executor's power reserved to you. We explain what both of these terms mean below.


If you choose not to be involved in the administration of the estate, you may have the option to renounce as an executor, which is when you give up the role of executor. This is not always the best option because once you have renounced your power as an executor, you are not usually able to re-activate it.

A formal deed of renunciation is needed to renounce your power as executor. Once this deed has been signed and sent to the Probate Registry, it can only be retracted or withdrawn with the consent of a District Judge or Probate Registrar. It is important to consider this if you are an executor who is considering renouncing. For more information see Renunciation as Executor of a Will.

If the deceased's will appoints family members as executors as well as a professional organisation such as a firm of solicitors, the family may wish for the professional executors to renounce. While an executor is under no obligation to renounce, most professional organisations will agree so long as they believe it is in the best interests of the estate. Some professional organisations may however charge a fee to prepare and sign a formal deed of renunciation.

Power Reserved

An Executor named in a Will can also choose to have Power Reserved to them, if there are other Executors who can act in their place. In this situation it is a requirement of the Court that any Executors who are not applying for the grant of probate be served with a "Notice of Power Reserved". This is simply a formal notice from the acting executor or executors, advising that they are intending to apply for a grant of probate in their names only.

The grant of probate issued by the Probate Court will state the name of the acting executor or executors but will note that power has been reserved to the other executor.

Applying for a grant of probate with power reserved can be particularly useful in situations where an executor lives in another country, for example, and it would therefore be impractical for all of the paperwork to be signed by all of the executors named in the will.

Unlike a renunciation, an executor who has power reserved to them can still choose to become involved in the administration of the estate at a later time if they want or need to.

In essence, therefore, having power reserved to you means that you can retain the power to deal with your loved one's estate should the need arise, but that you agree to a fellow executor administering the estate in the meantime. This can allow you space to grieve without undue concern that things aren't progressing as they should.

Professional Probate Support

If you find that you are a responsible for administering an Estate (as an executor or administrator) you can instruct a probate professional to help you. At Co-op Legal Services, our probate solicitors and specialists can deal with your loved one's estate on your behalf, taking care of the legal, tax and administrative work that probate entails.

With our Probate Complete Service, we take full responsibility for obtaining the grant of probate, completing all of the inheritance tax, income tax and capital gains tax paperwork and dealing with HM Revenue & Customs. We will also arrange the sale or transfer of assets and contact all of the beneficiaries on your behalf. Our fixed fee would be paid for with funds from the estate, with nothing to pay up front.

Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done that price will not change, unless the original information we are given is shown to be incorrect or circumstances change.

If you need help with probate, contact us:

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