Disputes between administers / executors and beneficiaries explained

Disputes between executors / administrators

Where there is more than one executor / administrator, they must work together to administer the estate. This means that they must agree on all decisions, and one cannot take steps to administer the estate alone without the other’s consent.

As such, disputes sometimes arise where executors / administrators disagree as to how to do something or what steps to take. This happens more often where the executors / administrators have a personal connection to the deceased (often the deceased’s children and so siblings) and they believe different things are in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries.

Examples include:

  • The executors are the deceased’s two sons and there is a Property to be sold. One son wishes to purchase the Property and has obtained a valuation. The other son feels the valuation is too low and will not agree to sell the Property at that price. The brothers cannot agree on a sale price.
  • The executors are the deceased’s two sisters. One sister wants to arrange a large funeral with a nice car and expensive flowers, costing a significant amount. The other sister wants a small family gathering with no flowers, costing only a small amount. The sisters cannot agree on this.
  • The administrators are the deceased’s son and daughter. The deceased’s son claims that he is owed a significant amount in expenses in relation to administration of the estate. The daughter disputes these and argues that the expenses are unreasonable and disproportionate. The son and daughter cannot agree.

The majority of the time, disputes between executors / administrators can be resolved through correspondence. We encourage people in these situations to have a sensible discussion about the issue and consider whether there can be some compromise which allows for an agreement which is in the best interests of the beneficiaries and the estate as a whole.

If you have tried a sensible approach and your co-executor / co-administrator has failed to engage or you cannot agree on the position, we can assist in those discussions.

As a final resort, applications to court can be considered e.g. to remove executors / administrators and/or have an independent administrator appointed to do the job. As with any court action, this comes at a price and so we would encourage parties to consider carefully whether there is room for agreement.


Disputes between executors / administrators and beneficiaries

Another common cause for seeking legal advice is where there is a dispute between the beneficiaries and the executors / administrators. This can often occur where the executors / administrators have made a decision about something which the beneficiaries disagree with or the beneficiaries do not feel the executors / administrators are doing a good job.

Common examples include delays in the administration or distribution of the estate and suggestions that the executors / administrators are doing things for their own financial gain.

Generally, the administration of an estate takes between 6 and 12 months (though this can necessarily be longer in more complex cases). Delays are caused by a number of factors, including issues with sale of properties, locating and accessing bank accounts or other assets, and also where there is a dispute in relation to the estate. These delays can be frustrating for beneficiaries, who want to ensure that the estate is administrated swiftly and to receive their inheritance.

If you are a beneficiary in a situation like this, we would encourage you to write to the executors / administrators to express your concern. Set out the time that has passed since the deceased passed away and / or the grant was obtained and the reasons why you believe the delay is unreasonable and ask for a response within a set period of time. If you are still not satisfied, we can assist to try and push things along. Please do get in touch if you require our assistance with this.

Equally, if you are not satisfied with the executor / administrator or are concerned that they have acted in a way which benefits them over the beneficiaries, write to the executor / administrator to make clear your concerns. Ask that they put right any wrongs and / or explain their decisions. If you remain unsatisfied, please do get in touch and we can assist with this.

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