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When the Executor of a Will Doesn't Fulfil Their Obligations

What should you do when the executor of a loved one's will fails to fulfil their duties? And what are your options when the executor of an estate neglects their duties?

Reasonable Expectations

It's important to have reasonable expectations. Receiving your share of an inheritance isn't like being paid by an employer, where the funds are deposited into your account by a certain date. An executor's year applies, which means that the executor has 12 months from the death of the will holder to distribute assets to beneficiaries. In short, be patient. However, it's reasonable to request updates from the executor.

Voluntary Withdrawal

An executor who fails to fulfil their duties isn't necessarily a legal matter. When the executor is another family member or close friend, it can be helpful to raise the matter with them personally. Perhaps they're having unrelated issues that are affecting their role as executor. While selecting an executor is an integral part of will preparation, it might be that the nominated individual was unwilling or unable to take on the responsibility. It's possible for them to withdraw; however, this requires permission of the courts once probate (the legal process that validated the will after the holder's death) has been granted. A renunciation of probate must be filed, and then a replacement executor will be appointed.

Involuntary Withdrawal

It's also possible for an executor to be replaced without their consent, and this is applicable when the executor is clearly negligent in their duties for whatever reason. They may be overseas, they could have already improperly distributed or interfered with the assets in question or they may have simply done nothing in their role—not even applied for probate. It's best to seek legal advice before attempting to oust an executor, as an application must be made to the courts. Again, a renunciation of probate is required (unless an application for probate has not yet been made), and a replacement executor must be appointed. 

Another Consideration

When facing these disagreeable circumstances, you might want to consider your own will, so that your beneficiaries can avoid a similar scenario. Wills need an executor, so you should think about who you've named for the role. It can be advisable to periodically confirm with the person to be sure that they're still inclined to accept the responsibility. You can also err on the side of caution and assign the lawyer who helped you to draft your will as the executor. 

It's an unpleasant complication when the executor of a loved one's will fails to fulfil their duties. It's important to determine the reason for the lapse, and this likewise determines the best course of action for solving the problem.