Professional Executors – Good or Bad?

At a time of grief, it can be an advantage to have a professional on hand to help you sort out probate, and in many cases a solicitor or accountant who understands the family situation and finances can be a significant benefit. However some banks have been charging rather steep fees and the practice of a Will writer naming themselves as executor in return for a low cost or free service is now being understood for what it often is: something of a “rip-off”.While testators probably think they have helped their loved-ones by appointing a professional executor at the time of drafting their Last Will and Testament, sadly, when it comes time to distribute the estate, the beneficiaries might find that the professional executor lands them with a substantial bill. One that could have been reduced if the beneficiaries and co-executors had been able to shop around for a better value option.

And sadly, many family members don’t realise they even have an option to change the executor, but it is possible to use your own probate solicitor, or, if you are named as co-executor, to carry out the estate administration for yourself.

How do I remove a professional executor?

There are three options for beneficiaries who find that a professional executor has been named in the Will.

  1. Leave the professional executor in situ
  2. Reserve power
  3. Renunciation of probate

Let’s look at these more closely.

Leaving a Professional Executor in Situ

In normal circumstances, you don’t have to use the professional named in the Will and are at liberty to use another firm of probate lawyers to carry out the estate administration work. To leave the professional executor in situ with no reserved powers you and any fellow executors would need to write a letter or email to the professional executor informing them of your intention to use another law firm. You, may need to act fast though, as once a bank or Will writing service named as executor has started work on probate they will be deemed to have “intermeddled”; it might be difficult to remove them and they are likely to charge you.

TIP: Speak to a reputable probate solicitor as soon as possible to compare the costs and so that they can draft you a letter to send out.

Reserving Power

The beneficiaries can ask the professional executor to reserve their power in respect of probate duties, so that the remaining executors (or another law firm) can apply for probate and handle the estate. The professional executor will need to write a short letter (they are likely to charge you for this) to the probate registry stating their intention not to apply for probate but to retain power of preservation.

This can be a useful course of action if you are going to handle the estate administration yourself and wish to have professional back-up for any legal decision-making and advice later down the line. It can also save on legal fees charged by the professional executor.

TIP: Probate work and estate administration is a legal process and must be carried out correctly and in a timely manner. Having a probate solicitor on hand to assist you with the process can be extremely beneficial to avoid any pitfalls which could lead to personal liability for the do-it-yourself executor.

Renunciation of Probate

Lastly, if the beneficiaries to a Will agree, they can ask the professional executor to renounce their duties. They will need to sign a letter with the request and the named executor must then submit a Renunciation of Probate form to the court (again there is likely to be a charge made for this). This course of action does not require all the beneficiaries to agree and sign the letter but it is clearly a more persuasive route if there can be complete agreement. The named executor doesn’t have to renounce, but in most cases they are unlikely to want to work with a group of people who are opposed to their presence in the handling of the estate.

Renunciation of probate must be carried out before the professional executor starts work on the estate as intermeddling could once again be an issue.

TIP: Charges for renunciation of probate is likely to be around £350-£400 and while this is recoverable from the estate, it’s worth asking the professional executor for a full probate service quote so that you can understand just how much you are likely to be charged once all the administrative duties are carried out. It may be possible to shop around and get a much lower quote, so this charge, especially on larger estates, may not be as punitive as it feels because you could, potentially, save thousands.

Talk to Wellers

If you want to change a named professional executor on your own Will, we can help. Wellers can advise you on the best course of action and whether a full redraft of your Will is necessary or a simple codicil will suffice.

If you think a loved one may have used a professional executor, it is probably unwise to try to get them removed, but it is useful to be aware and to know your options when the time finally comes to administer the estate.

Our probate teams will be happy to advise you about professional executors and what you can do to save money on the associated probate costs and fees.

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