Executors and personal representatives who are appointed to administer an estate, whether under a Will or by obtaining a grant of letters of administration, have a duty to collect in the deceased person’s assets, pay off their debts, and distribute what’s left in accordance with their Will or the Intestacy Rules. This usually involves a large number of financial transactions in and out, and it is therefore another of the duties of executors and PRs to produce what are called Estate Accounts. Estate Accounts are a financial record of all of the estate’s assets, liabilities, payments.
The executor / PR is only required to show the Estate Accounts to the Court (under the Administration of Estates Act 1925) and the residuary beneficiaries. A residuary beneficiary is anyone who is entitled to a share of what remains in the estate after the executor has dealt with paying all the expenses, gifts, debts and taxes which the estate is liable for.
Estate Accounts do not follow a prescribed format, but they must have sufficient detail to show all of the financial matters relating to the estate. We would therefore expect to see things like:
A residuary beneficiary can make a claim to the Probate Registry for an inventory and account order, which will compel the executor to provide the Estate Accounts. When an executor is refusing to send the Estate Accounts to a residuary beneficiary, it is not uncommon to find that there are other issues with their conduct as well, so often we seek an order for an inventory and account as part of a wider claim, for example for the Removal of an Executor.
In most cases though, a letter from a solicitor is enough to persuade the executor to send the Estate Accounts.
Often, a residuary beneficiary, particularly one who was close to the deceased, is aware of assets or liabilities which are not listed on the Estate Accounts. Usually this can be put down to an oversight by the person administering the estate. However, in some situations, the executors might be deliberately trying to hide assets, perhaps so they do not have to pay additional Inheritance Tax, or because they have fallen out with one of the residuary beneficiaries and want to limit their entitlement.
When that happens, the first thing to do is to raise it with the executor and give them a chance to correct the Estate Accounts. It may simply be an innocent mistake which can be rectified with little fuss. However, if the executor refuses to correct the accounts, a claim can be made to the Probate Registry for an inventory and account order, which will compel the executor to provide the correct version of the Estate Accounts. Again, it is often the case that when an executor is not correctly recording everything they are required to in the Estate Accounts, there are also other issues with their conduct which justify seeking their removal as executor.
The beneficiary challenging the executor over the Estate Accounts will be responsible for paying their own costs to begin with, and if the issue can be resolved in correspondence without the need for the Probate Registry or the Court to get involved, the beneficiary will remain liable for his/her own costs, and the executor will be entitled to recover their costs from the estate. However, if further action is necessary and the beneficiary is successful in their claim, the Court will usually order that the executor reimburses the beneficiary for the costs they have incurred, and often will also order that the executor is not entitled to take their own costs out of the estate. It is therefore essential that all parties take legal advice as soon as possible to minimise the costs they are required to pay and to limit the risk of them having to reimburse the other party for their costs.
If you have a concern about the Estate Accounts of someone who has recently passed away, please contact a member of our dispute resolution team in confidence here or on 02920 829 100 for a free initial call to see how they can help.
I have worked with Darwin Gray for a number of years and the level of service, professionalism and timely response is second to none. I would highly recommend Darwin Gray to any business.”
Darwin Gray have provided us with a first-class service for many years now. They really take the time to understand our business and develop relationships which results in advice and support that is contextualised and effective.”
We have worked with Darwin Gray for several years and have always found their services and advice to be first class.”
An extremely professional and sincere company who make time for your queries and understand the need to break down certain facts and information to ensure everything is understood perfectly. I would highly recommend the company to anyone looking for any type of legal advice”
PSS has worked with Darwin Gray for many years. We have always received an excellent service. Prompt and professional advice and support.”
We have used several departments within DG recently and we have been very pleased with an effective, efficient and down to earth service. Very happy thus far and I expect that we will continue to use DG.”
Darwin Gray offer us truly superb services. Very professional, quick and services available bilingually which is very important to us, highly recommend.”
My “go to” in urgent and time sensitive cases for direction, support and advice. The team are quick to respond to calls or emails for advice and support on all matters. Always explain complex matters in a way a lay person can easily understand.”
Darwin Gray have acted for myself and my company over a number of years and at all times we have been treated with a professional manner yet maintain a common-sense approach at all levels. We couldn’t recommend them more highly.”
We have been clients of Darwin Gray for many years; they’ve always dealt with all of our legal matters with such professionalism. They work around us, even during awkward hours, and we feel confident we can always rely on them.”
Darwin Gray has been acting for Siltbuster for more than ten years. We would have no hesitation in recommending Darwin Gray to other organisations small or large.”
From the very first conversation, I had no doubt that Darwin Gray should be the firm to receive our instructions on this matter. I would have no hesitation in recommending Darwin Gray.”
We regularly instruct Darwin Gray. Their service in dealing with our transactional matters and disputes is always professional, prompt and efficient.”
Darwin Gray guided me through a long and extended process that would have been much more difficult had it not been for their patience and constant support.”
Excellent and efficient service. Great result achieved, highly professional and transparent on pricing. Would recommend.”
Superb legal service provided. Exceeded expectations. They went above and beyond in order to provide the best service possible.”
Very professional and understanding. They were a calming influence in a very troubling situation and they brought it to a very successful conclusion”
We have used Darwin Gray and have been seriously impressed. The personal approach is what Darwin Gray are excelling on and is the reason why we will continue to work with them in the future.”