Can you Refuse the Role of Executor?

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  • Helen Claydon

Can you Refuse the Role of Executor?

For some people who have been named as the executor of a Will it can come as a bit of a surprise!

Even if you are aware of your appointment the task might feel like a daunting one and you may decide that you don’t want to accept the role. The role of an executor varies dramatically depending on the estate. In those cases where there are a lot of assets or debts the administration of an estate can be quite complex as well as time-consuming.

In very simple terms, the role of an executor is to take responsibility for administering the estate of a person who has passed away. This could involve contacting all institutions that the deceased had contact with, applying for a grant of probate and distributing the estate in accordance with the wishes stated in the Will.

Is it possible to refuse to be an executor? If you have been named as an executor of a Will but you decide you are either unable or unwilling to act, you can refuse to take on the role. This is known as renouncing and it means that you remove yourself from the role and all of the responsibilities that come with it. You can only renounce if you have not already taken on any actions that would be considered as being part of the administration of the estate. If you have already started the administration this is known as ‘intermeddling’ and means that you cannot then renounce.

While there are no specific rules as to what amounts to intermeddling, but it does involve any work that is the responsibility of the executor and is done before the application for probate is submitted. It is not possible to renounce as executor after you have submitted an application for a grant of probate. So, if you do want to renounce, you should do this as early as possible and you should not carry out any tasks that would be considered to be the role of the executor.

If you renounce, what happens? If the testator has named other executors in their Will, or reserve executors, then the role will pass over to them and they will then have to take responsibility for it. If you are the only named executor the estate is left with no acting executor then it will become the responsibility of the residuary beneficiaries to agree on who they believe should administer the estate.

How do you renounce? If you need to remove yourself from the role of executor then you will need to sign a legal document that is known as a Deed of Renunciation. This will need to be signed in the presence of an independent witness. Once this has been completed, it will need to be submitted to the probate registry. Should there be another executor who will be taking on the role, they will be able to file this when they make an application for probate.

Is there an alternative?

If you still want to retain some control over the administration of the estate but do not want to be responsible for the day to day process then you could appoint a professional executor to carry out the administration for you by appointing them as your Attorney. By signing a Power of Attorney you can give them the authority to act on your behalf. The Power can be revoked at any time so you can regain control.


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