It may sound irresponsible to many, but a surprising number of executors don’t know they are nominated in wills. Until, that is they discover they are lumped with the task of finalizing the estate, and distributing the assets as the will dictates.
They may find themselves peppered with conflicting demands from wannabe beneficiaries, while they battle to get their minds around inheritance tax and the rules for probate.
If you find yourself in this situation and you don’t want it, you may be delighted to know you can opt out by completing a simple form. You don’t even have to provide reasons. But first, is that the right thing to do.
Is Renouncing an Executorship the Right Thing to Do?
An executor is in a position of trust. The deceased chose them to complete their final task, by allocating their worldly possessions to people whom they loved. They may have selected you as friend or family member, because they did not want to involve corporate solicitors, accountants and banks.
This can be unfair if their estate is large and complex. It can also be tough on an amateur executor who may not charge their time by law, and can only claim their reasonable costs. This may be why the UK government invented their opt-out PA15 two-page form.
There May Also Be Troublesome Hassles and Family Feuds
Family relationships can break down over who gets what from a will. The situation may become hectic and this can put unfair strain of the executor, especially if they stand to inherit something too.
They could – if they wanted to – appoint a solicitor to conduct the executorship on their behalf. If they were to do so, they would be wise to get all the heirs to agree the estate would honour the solicitor’s bills.
However, if the estate is small and could not cover these added costs, then the executor might be personally liable for at least part of the bill. In situations like these a family executor may throw in the towel instead, and hand the problem to the Probate Court.
How the Act of Renunciation Works in Practice
An executor can resign their duties in England and Wales, by signing and submitting a fully completed, downloadable PA15 form to the Probate Court. This asks for details of the deceased and the executor. The latter must declare:
“I the executor named over the page do hereby declare that I have not intermeddled in the estate of the deceased and will not hereafter intermeddle therein with intent to defraud creditors …
“… And I do hereby renounce all my right and title to probate and letters of administration with will annexed and execution of the said will.”
A renunciation is best done as soon as possible, because otherwise there could be a delay before the Probate Court approved a replacement. This could be another family member with the patience, tact and fortitude so see their task through to completion. Or a legal professional familiar with the finer details.