While the two main reasons for making a contested probate claim are either the invalidity of the will or over the alleged lack of provision made for financial dependants of the deceased, there are other issues that can sometimes lead to wills being contested. One of these is trustee or executor disputes – which occur if you feel there has been improper conduct by one or more of the trustees or executors of the will.
If you are potentially involved in an executor dispute, our team have the specialist experience you need. The deal with disputes with Executors and Trustees locally throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset and Dorset and nationally throughout England and Wales from our offices in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury.
Worried about a possible trustee or executor dispute? Call our expert lawyers on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 for FREE initial phone advice – with no strings attached.
What is the role of a Trustee or Executor?
Trustees and executors are generally known as the ‘Personal Representatives’ of the deceased, and it is their job to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out in accordance with what has been laid down in the will. It is expected that they will be impartial and carry out their duties without any bias.
What causes Executor and Trustee Disputes?
If you feel that they have taken advantage of their role or otherwise behaved improperly, then you might be able to challenge their actions by making a contested probate claim.
Among the main causes of such disputes are following;
• Not acting in the interest of the estate. If you are a beneficiary of the will and feel that one of the Personal Representatives has not acted in the best interests of the estate or those with an inheritance claim, then you might be able to contest their decision.
This is especially relevant in cases where the Personal Representative is also a beneficiary of the will or has a vested interested in a company (such as being a shareholder or director) that the estate benefits. This can lead to disputes between the Personal Representative and beneficiaries, and the most common procedure is then to have the PR removed and replaced by someone else. This can be applied for by either a beneficiary or the PR themselves in order to minimise disputes.
•Improper behaviour. If one or more of the executors is a close friend or relative of one of the beneficiaries of the will. If you feel they have acted unjustly or with bias towards their associate in a way that wasn’t provided for in the will of the deceased, then you may have grounds to challenge their decision. Remember that you always need to have evidence of their improper behaviour so you can prove to the court that your own actions are just. A successful contested probate claim relies on the quality of the evidence presented as, without it, the will is likely to stand as it is.
• Dishonesty. You can also challenge the will if they Personal Representative have been dishonest such as by taking action to prevent you from making your rightful inheritance claim or by misleading you about the contents of the will. Dishonesty in the disclosure of assets also quite often features as a major part of a dispute. This may occur whether executors wish to claim further assets for themselves or wish to secure extra assets for a beneficiary whom they are close friends wit
• Disagreements over administration. This might be no more than a difference of opinion over a technical matter, such as the merits of a particular investment, or the disposal of a particular asset. As with all differences of opinion, if no compromise can be reached, then it may be best to seek a professional third opinion, perhaps from experienced inheritance lawyers, or to consider mediation or arbitration.
• Failing to execute the wishes of the deceased
• Problems with renunciation of probate. The desire of one executor to renounce probate before it has been granted. This is a technically tricky area – the ability to renounce probate may not be possible, depending on how much involvement the executor has already had in the estate.
• Arguments with executors. It may be simply that the executor or trustee is being argumentative or difficult. You may not wish to contest a Will but simply remove an executor.
• Disputes over selling property. There may be a disagreement where executors or beneficiaries entertain strong, conflicting views such as the decision to sell a particular asset.
Avoid the risk of an executor dispute – appoint a professional executor
One way to avoid the possibility of an executor dispute is to appoint a solicitor as a professional executor. Our expert private client team regularly act as professional executors.
Want to know more? Click here to read our 14 Key Reasons To Use A Solicitor for Probate
How To Resolve Disputes With Trustees or Executors
The administration of an estate can be an emotive business. Human nature being what it is, even the most professional and disinterested personal representatives can find themselves in dispute with each other. It’s therefore very important to deal with them before they escalate too far.
Differences of opinion can sometimes become more entrenched and problematic. With emotions already running high following the death of a loved one, arguments regarding the deceased finances add an unwanted stress.
It may however be possible to resolve an executor dispute simply by gaining professional advice from a solicitor with plenty of experience of resolving inheritance claims.
If that doesn’t work, our solicitors will try to help you to reach a negotiated settlement – using mediation if necessary. It’s only if all other avenues work that you should consider fighting the issue at court.
Involved in an executor dispute? Don’t delay in getting specialist legal advice
If you are currently involved in a dispute with an executor of a Will in which you are jointly executing or are a beneficiary you will need to make your claim within 6 months of the grant of probate. However the rules are tight so it is advisable to make your claim as early as possible. Make sure that you seek the help of a solicitor who specialises in Executor Disputes who will be able to advise you on your options.
Our experienced team has the expertise you need. We regularly run contested probate and inheritance act claims, including executors disputes, both locally throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset and Dorset as well as nationally throughout England and Wales, from our four offices in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury.
Thinking of getting involved in an executor or trustee dispute? Read our warning
Whatever the cause, executor disputes can prove tricky and worse still, can cause real and lasting divisions between friends and family – probably the very last thing in the world that the deceased wanted. Turning this kind of dispute into a legal case should only ever be a last resort.
Do ask yourself the following question – “Do I really want to get involved in a contested probate case?”