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What to do if an executor is not administering the estate properly
Encouraging estate action
If you are a potential beneficiary under a Will or intestacy, you will likely be keen for the final administration of the deceased estate to take place in a timely manner.
While the personal representatives (executors or administrators) for an estate are normally allowed 12 months to attend to proper administration without interference from beneficiaries or creditors (generally referred to as the executor’s year), there are options available to encourage action be taken.
Citation to accept or refuse a Grant
A Citation to accept or refuse a Grant is a method to attempt advancing the estate administration by forcing a party with a right to the Grant to act. The party cited then is required to enter an Appearance in response to the Citation, otherwise their priority to act is extinguished and the next party with rights is entitled to do so. Should an Appearance be entered in response to the Citation by the party with prior entitlement, then the appearing party must take reasonable steps to proceed to apply for the Grant of Representation and administer the estate, otherwise the Citor may apply to the Court for a Grant to be issued to them instead.
Citation to take Probate
Citation to take Probate is another option available to parties with an interest in the estate. This Citation is for circumstances where a party has taken some steps toward administering the estate without formal authority, but also does not complete the steps and finalise the estate. This type of action is called intermeddling, and can result in that person being responsible for full administration of the estate. A Citation for Probate is an option to beneficiaries forcing the intermeddling person to formalise their role by obtaining a Grant of Representation and completing the action. If the intermeddler does not take these steps or file an Appearance in response to the Citation, then the beneficiary can seek Court directions either for the intermeddler to obtain a Grant, or allowing the beneficiary to obtain a grant themselves.
Citation to propound a Will
If a deceased dies with multiple Wills, and a beneficiary wants to attempt to have a particular Will formalised and used for administration, then a Citation to propound a Will can be a suitable method to employ. Propounding a Will is another way of describing the process for proving the validity of the document and authority of the executors to administer the estate. The executors named in the disputed Will are then given the opportunity to file their Appearance in response to the Citation and apply for a Grant of Probate of the Will, or failing that the Citor can seek Court orders declaring the disputed Will invalid, and then proceed to apply for a Grant of Probate on an earlier more appropriate Will.
Administration of estates can be complex and time consuming, but with the right legal advice, applications for Grants of Representation and finalising dealing with the estate can be more efficient. Expert input on an estate you are appointed to act for, or on a slow-moving estate that you are a beneficiary of, can be of great value.