Can a personal representative step down?

Man in suit writing will

What happens if you’ve been appointed to act as the personal representative to a deceased’s estate but you don’t want to take on the role?

Becoming the executor or administrator to an estate can be an onerous task. It involves collecting in the deceased’s assets, valuing them, arranging for sale or transfer, calculating tax liabilities, paying debts and distributing the money to beneficiaries.

It has been estimated that even a fairly straightforward estate can involve 70-100 hours of paperwork and take several months.

Taking on the role can also mean becoming personally financially liable for any loss, even if it arose from a genuine error.

If you don’t want to act, either because you feel the appointment will be too demanding or because of illness or incapacity, it is possible to renounce the position, although certain restrictions apply.

Stepping down as an executor

If the deceased made a Will, this will name those who they wish to be their executor.

However a named executor doesn’t have to take on the role, even if they have initially agreed to, provided two criterias are met.

Firstly, they must make the decision before Grant of Probate is applied for.

Secondly, they must not have ‘intermeddled’ in the estate. There is no exact definition of intermeddling, but it includes carrying out administrative work in respect of the estate or dealing with the deceased’s financial or business affairs. Some small acts may be permitted, such as arranging the funeral.

To officially step down, the executor needs to execute a Deed of Renunciation, which is then sent to the Probate Registry.

Stepping down as an administrator

Where the deceased has not left a Will, an administrator is appointed from among close relatives, usually a spouse or child.

If you do not wish to act, you can simply choose not to do so, and it is not necessary to sign anything. As before, no tasks should be taken on on behalf of the estate.

Why you need to renounce early if possible

Once you have officially stepped down you will not be personally liable for any actions taken on behalf of the estate.

As there are likely to be many tasks to be taken on soon after the deceased’s death, it is best to step down as soon as possible to allow someone else to take on the role and to avoid the risk of becoming involved, which could constitute intermeddling.

To speak to one of our probate experts, contact us or ring us on 01276 415835/6/7.

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