Can One Executor Act Without the Other in the UK?

inheritance
Can One Executor Act Without the Other in the UK?

When writing a will in the UK, it is common for individuals to appoint more than one executor to manage and distribute their estate. This practice, known as joint executorship, is often adopted to balance responsibilities and provide checks and balances in the administration of an estate. However, this raises a crucial question: Can one executor act without the other? This blog post explores the legal framework surrounding joint executorship, the ability of executors to act independently, and the practical implications of these roles.

The Role of Executors

Executors are responsible for administering the deceased’s estate in accordance with their will. Their duties include collecting the assets, paying off any debts, calculating and clearing tax obligations, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as stipulated in the will. The role requires a high degree of trust and responsibility, as executors are expected to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries and manage the estate efficiently and fairly.

Legal Framework for Joint Executors

In the UK, the law allows for the appointment of multiple executors to manage an estate, typically with the recommendation of appointing at least two but no more than four. When executors are appointed jointly, they must generally act together in decision-making and estate administration. This requirement is intended to prevent unilateral decisions that could harm the estate or beneficiaries.

Can One Executor Act Without the Other?

The basic principle under UK law is that joint executors must act together. This means they must agree on major decisions and actions such as selling property, distributing assets, and paying debts. The law requires their joint signatures for transactions, ensuring that all actions are taken collectively.

However, there are some exceptions where one executor can act without the co-execution of the others:

  • Routine Administration: For practical purposes, executors may divide responsibilities for efficiency, allowing them to perform routine tasks independently, such as paying utility bills or engaging with professional advisors.
  • Power Reserved: In situations where one or more executors are unable or unwilling to act immediately, they may have a power reserved to them. This allows the active executors to proceed without waiting for the others, who can join the administration later.
  • Court Intervention: If there is a deadlock or if an executor is not fulfilling their duties, the court can intervene, potentially allowing one executor to act independently or removing executors who are causing impediments.

Challenges in Joint Executorship

While joint executorship is designed to provide a system of checks and balances, it can also lead to complications.

  • Disagreements: Differences in opinion can lead to stalemates, delaying the administration of the estate and potentially causing financial and emotional distress to beneficiaries.
  • Geographical Separation: If executors are located in different regions, coordination can become challenging, slowing down the decision-making process.
  • Varied Expertise: Executors may have different levels of understanding and experience in managing estates, which can lead to disagreements over the best course of action.

These challenges underscore the importance of carefully selecting executors who can work well together and are committed to fulfilling the testator’s wishes efficiently.

Best Practices for Executors

To ensure smooth execution of their duties, joint executors should:

  • Communicate Effectively: Regular communication is key to synchronising actions and resolving disagreements.
  • Consult Professionals: Legal and financial advisors can provide necessary guidance and help mediate differences.
  • Set Clear Responsibilities: While major decisions should be made jointly, dividing up tasks can help streamline the process and prevent delays in administration.

Conclusion

Joint executorship is a common and effective way to manage the complexities of estate administration, ensuring balance and oversight. However, the requirement for executors to act jointly is both a strength and a potential source of conflict. By understanding the legal requirements and implementing best practices, executors can navigate their responsibilities effectively, ensuring the deceased’s wishes are honoured and their beneficiaries are served promptly and properly.

Avatar of DLS Solicitors by DLS Solicitors
13th May 2024
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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