Can I Remove a Solicitor Acting as Executor of a Will?
Generally, an Executor will be another member of the family or a close friend, but sometimes it can be a professional, such as a solicitor...
An Executor is normally named in a Will, and it is their responsibility to administer the Estate of the deceased. Generally, an Executor will be another member of the family or a close friend, but sometimes it can be a professional, such as a solicitor.
Why would a solicitor be the Executor?
Someone who decided to name a professional, like a solicitor, as the Executor in their Will may have done so for a number of different reasons. It could be to try to avoid causing any further upset to their family / friend; or because they think a professional would deal with their Estate more effectively; or because any beneficiaries were too young to be named as Executors when the Will was written.
Why could this be a problem?
At the time of death the solicitor appointed as Executor may insist that their firm handles the probate process and then charge a fee to act as Executor. The solicitor may not have explained their fee fully to the deceased when they made the Will, and now their fee may have even risen to a significant sum of money.
They might not be the specialist probate solicitors that you want to handle the Estate. They might not be offering the most efficient value of service, and are now delaying the administration of the Estate, or not conducting the administration properly.
But what can you do after they’ve already been appointed? How can you remove them from acting as the Executor?
How to remove a solicitor acting as Executor
Any solicitor who has been appointed as Executor is under no legal obligation to renounce their position (resign). However, you could simply try contacting them directly and request that they renounce their position as Executor of the Will.
A solicitor who has been appointed Executor still owes a duty of care to act on behalf of their client’s best interests. Guidance for solicitors who have been asked to act as Executors can come from both the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). This guidance can be useful to consult from when a solicitor has been asked to renounce probate, as they must explain their reasons for not stepping down or otherwise departing from the guidance issued
Ethically a solicitor should agree to renounce their position as Executor if it isn’t in the best interests of the deceased person. The solicitor should consider why they were appointed, and if there are any good reasons why they should continue to act as Executor. If the beneficiaries have all given their own informed consent for them to step down, then the solicitor should be prepared to do so.
Keep in the mind though that certain Will writing companies, financial institutions, banks and other organisations are not always regulated by the SRA.
What if the Grant of Probate has already been obtained?
Even after the the Grant of Probate has been obtained and work has already started on the administration of the Estate – you could still request to remove a solicitor as Executor.
In order to request their removal at this stage, an application will need to be made to the High Court. The application would need to include:
The reasons for wanting the solicitor to be removed as Executor.
Details of the Estate, such as the total value and its beneficiaries.
Details of who would take over the role as Executor.
In cases of misconduct from the solicitor acting as Executor, the Court would need sufficient evidence before making a decision to remove them. They would take numerous factors into account, such as the views of the beneficiaries, and how the administration of the Estate has been impacted if relations between the solicitor and the beneficiaries had broken down.
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