If an executor/administrator is refusing to pay you your inheritance, you may have grounds to have them removed or replaced.

However, there may very well be legitimate reasons for the delay. Particularly, during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. If this is the case, any Court application to have them removed/replaced is very unlikely to succeed and you may then be ordered to pay all the legal costs. It is therefore always best to proceed with caution, to seek advice and to gather as much information as possible before taking any action.

An executor is appointed by the will of an individual who has passed away (the deceased). An administrator is appointed where the deceased has failed to leave a valid will. Collectively, they are known as “Personal Representatives”.

The primary role of a Personal Representative is to collect the assets of the deceased, pay off their liabilities and properly distribute the estate according to the terms of the will or rules of intestacy (if there is no valid will). Once all the assets are collected and the final figures in the estate accounts are agreed, payment should then be made as quickly as reasonably possible.

However, this process can take time and there are often legitimate reasons for delay. For example, if the primary asset in the estate is a property it can often take a number of months (at the best of times) for a sale to take place. Until that time, there might be no money at all in the estate to pay out. During the ongoing pandemic, nearly all property sales are paused meaning that delay in these circumstances is unavoidable. Other examples of legitimate delays might be when confirmation of the tax position is being sought from HMRC or some of the other beneficiaries disagree with certain figures in the estate accounts.

If there is a delay in your case, you should therefore always ask the Personal Representative(s) for the reason in the first instance.

If they refuse to tell you or have no valid reason for the delay, you may have grounds to have them replaced or removed from their role. The replacement (or remaining) Personal Representative(s) can then take the necessary steps to finalise the administration. Such an application would need to be made to the Court under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985. The key consideration of the Court in such cases is whether the Personal Representative(s) in question can properly administer the estate.

We would recommend that you seek legal advice before commencing any Court proceedings to remove or replace a Personal Representative. It is always desirable to try and resolve disputes at an early stage to save stress, time and legal costs.