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Dishonest DIY executors cause Will dispute claims to triple

View profile for Jane Cox
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The rise in DIY Will services has led to a sharp increase in the amount of claims for mishandling a deceased’s estate, with the High Court releasing figures showing that these claims have tripled in the last year.  Jane Cox, Private Client Partner, explains the importance of seeking professional advice when preparing your Will and appointing executors, ensuring your wishes are respected without your loved ones facing a hefty bill.

“Many people are looking to save money when organising their Will, appointing friends or family members as executors instead of solicitors,” begins Jane.  “They don’t realise the complexities with probate and the heavy responsibility that executors have.  This is what has led to the increase in claims made by beneficiaries against their executors, with 368 claims lodged for breach of fiduciary duty in 2013, up from 107 in 2012.  ”

Jane continues, “One of the issues is having a dishonest executor.  You may think that by appointing a friend or family member that you will avoid these claims as they will naturally want what is best for you, but unfortunately these figures prove that this isn’t the case.  There are a number of different causes for these types of claims, one of them being theft of assets by the executor.  This has become even more prevalent in recent months with the rise of house prices, making it more appealing for the dishonest executor to keep parts of the estate for themselves.

“An untrustworthy executor may also distribute the assets fraudulently by allocating the estate as they see fit if they don’t want the money of the deceased to go out of their immediate family, even if this goes against their wishes” explains Jane.  “This is similar to another issue on the rise as executors favour certain beneficiaries of the Will above others, particularly when the deceased has a complex family, for example children from previous marriages.

“These are obviously extreme issues that can take place with purposefully fraudulent executors,” Jane reassures.  “Even appointing honest executors can lead to problems as the complex probate law leaves them open to many pitfalls, particularly as it’s very rare for there to be a straightforward estate, plus the intricacy around Inheritance Tax rules can lead to a costly mistake.”

Jane warns DIY executors, “If there is an error made, whether intentional or not, the executor can be held responsible which will result in the claim of breach of fiduciary duty and so could be forced to compensate the beneficiary out of their own pocket.  Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for mistakes being made, which makes it even more important to seek professional advice and avoid possible hefty fines.”

To find out more about making a will who you should appoint as an executor, you can call Jane or the Private Client Team on 01329 222075, or visit their section of the website.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.