Bennett & Philp Lawyers assists executors, administrators and beneficiaries in resolving estate disputes.
What is an ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’?
An ‘executor’ is nominated in a person’s Will to manage their affairs when they die. If a person dies without a Will or an executor cannot or does not want to act, the Court will appoint an ‘administrator’.
Executors and administrators are known as the estate’s ‘legal personal representative’ and their job is to manage the estate, pay all debts and distribute the assets according to the Will or, if there is no Will, according to the law. It is the representative’s duty to safeguard the assets and look after the interests of the people who will ultimately receive them (known as the ‘beneficiaries’). If more than one executor or administrator is appointed, they must work together.
What types of disputes can arise?
Beneficiaries have certain rights in relation to a deceased estate. Executors and administrators have a number of duties with which they must comply.
Disputes between beneficiaries and executors (or administrators) commonly arise because the executor (or administrator) does not carry out their job efficiently and keep the beneficiaries up-to-date. From time-to-time, we will come across cases where some beneficiaries have not received their entitlement nor any information at all from the executor (or administrator) as to the estate for many months or even years.
It is also common for disputes to arise when the beneficiaries do not agree with decisions of the executor (or administrator). For example, an executor might plan to sell a deceased person’s home, but their loved ones would prefer it to stay in the family.
The most serious disputes occur when an executor (or administrator) does not carry out their duties properly or act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. For example, where the executor wastes or steals estate assets.
Disputes can also arise between executors (or administrators). For example, this is common where family members who do not get along are appointed executors of an estate.
We assist executors, administrators and beneficiaries in resolving any disputes that arise. If any disputes cannot be resolved amicably, the Court does have the power to review the actions of an executor (and administrator) and make directions about how they must act. If an executor (or administrator) wilfully or carelessly causes loss or damage to estate assets, the Court can hold them personally accountable. In very serious cases, the Court can even remove an executor (or administrator) from their position.
If you need advice about your rights as a beneficiary or your duties as a legal personal representative, please contact one of our friendly team members on +61 7 3001 2999 for a free 45 minute no obligation appraisal. Remember, time limits do apply.