Can you refuse to act as executor of a Will?

It can sometimes come as a surprise to find that you have been named as the executor of a person’s Will or you may have been aware but are now unable or unwilling to act.

What is the role of an executor?

An executor is responsible for the administration of the estate of a person who has passed away. This can include a variety of tasks including contacting any institutions involved, applying for probate and distributing the estate according to the wishes in the Will.

Depending on the type of estate the complexity of this job can vary dramatically. Estates where there are several institutions involved, high value assets or debts and liabilities can be extremely time-consuming and difficult to administer.

Can I refuse to be an executor?

If you have been named the executor of a Will but are unwilling or unable to act you can refuse the role and renounce as executor. To renounce means that you will give up your role and responsibilities entirely and permanently. If you have not taken any action that would be considered administration of the estate, you are able to renounce your role as executor.

If you have started to contact institutions, close bank accounts or collected assets you may not be able to renounce as taking these actions would be considered as “intermeddling”. There is no specific definition or rules as to what intermeddling is, but it generally includes work that is the responsibility of the executor and is done before an application of probate is made. You are not able to renounce as executor if you have intermeddled in the estate or made an application for a grant of probate.

If you want to renounce you should do this as early as possible and you should not undertake any sort of activity that would be considered as the executor’s responsibility.

What happens if I renounce?

If the testator (the writer of the Will) has named other executors or reserve executors in their Will, it will become their responsibility to administer the estate once you renounce.

If you are the only executor that has been named in the Will and due to your renunciation, the estate is left with no acting executor, it will be up to the beneficiaries to come to an agreement as to who they want to administer the estate.

How do I renounce as an executor?

In order to renounce your right to act as executor you will need to sign a legal document called a Deed of Renunciation (PA15). You can find the PA15 form on the government website.

You will need to sign the PA15 in the presence of an independent witness. Once this has been done it will need to be lodged with the probate registry. If there is another executor/administrator who will be undertaking the estate administration, they will be able to file your deed of renunciation when making their application for probate. Alternatively, you can file your renunciation with the probate registry yourself.

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