It is the primary duty of the Executor of a deceased estate to
collect the estate assets, pay the estate debts and distribute the
net estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will in a
Sometimes the executor's ability to do this is hindered if
there are Will Disputes like claims made against or some other
disputes arise about the Estate.
TYPES OF CLAIMS AND WILL DISPUTES.
There are 5 major types of claim in a deceased estate:
A creditor can claim to be owed money by the deceased in
circumstances where that claimed debt is disputed by the
A person can claim they were wrongly left out of the Will, or
that their benefit under the Will is too little, and seek a greater
A person can claim that the whole Will of the deceased, or a
provision in the Will, is invalid for some reason.
Disputes can arise between executors where more than one has
A beneficiary can claim that an Executor has breached his or
DEALING WITH CLAIMS
The executor must, in carrying out its primary duty, defend the
estate from any claims made against it.
At the same time, the executor must take a commercial approach
when dealing with any claimant because their duty to preserve the
estate for the benefit of beneficiaries will often mean that they
have to resolve a claim by compromising, so as to avoid the risk of
losing a much larger amount.
The executor will have to take legal advice in relation to any
claim made or will dispute, and the legal costs of obtaining that
advice would be payable by the estate.
If an executor is considering compromising a claim made against
the estate it is often wise to discuss the compromise with the
beneficiaries who would have to give up all, or part, of their
benefit under the Will as a result of the compromise.
EFFECT ON DISTRIBUTION
The executor must be sure to address any will disputes and
ensure that there are no outstanding claims against the estate at
the time he or she proceeds to distribute the net assets of the
estate to the beneficiaries. If the executor distributes
a successful claimant against the estate may be able to recover
the amount of their claim from the executor personally;
a beneficiary under the Will may make a claim against the
executor alleging the premature distribution amounted to a breach
of duty by the executor.
The executor can protect themselves from a personal claim in a
number of ways, depending on the risks to be managed,
Advertising the intended distribution in accordance with the
Delaying the distribution until 12 months from the death of the
Entering a deed of arrangement with the interested parties
Obtaining Directions or Orders from the Court
TAKE ADVICE FROM WILLS AND ESTATE PROFESSIONALS
The executor should always take appropriate legal, accounting
and financial advice when handling an estate or any will disputes
because the personal risk of failing to deal appropriately with a
claim against the estate is significant. The cost of that advice is
an estate expense and the executor will not be personally liable
for that cost.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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If you are doing a Will, or you are the executor of a deceased estate, consider what taxes and duties could be payable.
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