The Administration of Estates Act of 1925 established the chain of representation among other matters affecting estates. It established a rule that “An executor of a sole or last surviving executor of a testator is the executor of that testator” too.
However, it went on to add, “This provision shall not apply to an executor who does not prove the will of his testator. And, in the case of an executor who on his death leaves surviving him some other executor of his testator who afterwards proves the will of that testator, it shall cease to apply on such probate being granted.
“So long as the chain of such representation is unbroken, the last executor in the chain is the executor of every preceding testator.”
However the Law Does Not Simply Leave It There
The law continues as if it were a mole exploring every tunnel under a lawn. Thus it says the chain of representation is broken by:
X An intestacy where there is no legal will; or
X The failure of a testator to appoint an executor; or
X The failure to obtain probate of a will
However the chain is not broken by a temporary grant of administration if probate is subsequently granted. Furthermore, every person in the chain of representation:
X Has the same rights as the original executor
X Is answerable as if he were an original executor
Can We Have That in Plain English Please?
Of course, that’s the service we hope to provide here. Perhaps a practical example we borrowed from Co-Op Legal Services will help. Let’s imagine a woman named Joyce writes a will nominating David as her executor.
After Joyce dies, David obtains a grant of probate and starts winding up Joyce’s estate. However David dies before he completes the task. He leaves a will in turn nominating Samantha as his executor.
Samantha then becomes David’s executor, and also Joyce’s in terms of the chain of representation. Samantha must apply for a grant of probate in the case of the former. However, she should be able continue under the original grant of probate over Joyce’s affairs.
This chain can continue growing until something breaks it. For example, all things being equal, if Samantha dies then her executor becomes responsible for Joyce’s, David’s and Samantha’s affairs. This once again proves the point one should not accept a sole executorship lightly.
Please Explain How the Chain of Representation Breaks
The simplest example would be where an executor dies without leaving a will (or left a will without naming an executor). Therefore they have no executor of their own to continue the chain. The rules of intestacy will decide who administers their estate independent of the rest.
The chain of representation can also break if the last executor in the chain fails to obtain a grant of probate before they die. However, there is still one last piece of the puzzle to add.
The chain of representation does not apply where there are other executors who survive. If there were none left standing then the chain of representation would follow the last surviving one, while all the deceased people continue to rest in peace.