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Choose your executors carefully

A recent case has o n c e a g a i n highlighted the importance of clients choosing their executors with care. The case involved an executor who ‘went too far’ was sued by the beneficiaries for failing to administer the estate. The executor was a friend of the lady who died in 2006. Under the terms of the Will she gave a right of occupation of her property to another friend then left her estate to be divided between three animal charities. The charities, on becoming aware of their entitlement under the Will, made enquiries of the executor to establish their entitlement. The executor supplied them with a copy of the Will and a letter apparently signed by the life tenant expressing that she wished to stay in the house. The charities made repeated enquiries but the executor provided incomplete responses and a valuation that was much lower than those carried out by the charities. Now suspicious by the executor’s actions they made further enquiries and were shocked to find out that the life tenant had actually lived in sheltered accommodation for quite some time and that the executor was currently residing in the property. As beneficiaries the charities applied to have the executor removed by the court and replaced with a professional executor. Not only did the court agree but also ordered the executor to pay the costs incurred by the charities in sending repeated solicitors letters and obtaining valuations. Although clearly within their rights in this case charities are notoriously aggressive where they are appointed beneficiaries of an estate. Leaving a fixed sum to a charity is preferable however caution should be exercised when deciding the amount as a specific bequest is paid in preference to any residuary payment meaning that, potentially, they may be nothing left for the ultimate beneficiaries. The case also highlights the benefits of having a professional executor appointed, even if it is alongside the clients chosen lay executors. Using a professional dispels the possibility of leaving an executor open to aggressive tactics used by charities and any potential claim against them personally, even for innocent mistakes

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