Take Care When Appointing a Non-Lawyer as Your Executor
When you appoint a solicitor to be the executor of your will, you can be assured that they will understand their duties and can be relied upon to comply with them. However, as a High Court case showed, the same sadly cannot always be said of friends or family members who are chosen to perform the role.
The case concerned a woman who died in her 70s, leaving an estate valued at more than £240,000 that was left in equal shares to a friend and a neighbour. Her will appointed the neighbour's boyfriend as her executor. The principal asset of the estate was her home, which was later sold by the executor, realising a net sum of about £220,000.
Half of that sum should have been distributed to the friend in accordance with the pensioner's will, but she did not receive any money. After taking legal advice, she launched proceedings and a judge ordered the boyfriend's removal as executor. The friend replaced him as administrator of the estate.
He was also ordered to pay her the money due to her and to disclose documents relating to the whereabouts of the missing funds. He failed to comply with the orders and only at the eleventh hour did he disclose a bank statement, which revealed that all but £1,300 of the proceeds of the house sale had been spent on supporting his own lifestyle.
In the circumstances, the boyfriend admitted contempt of court and was warned by a judge that he faces a significant custodial sentence. He was, however, given a final opportunity to provide a full explanation of what had happened to the money and sentencing was adjourned for a month.