Choose your executors carefully

Posted: 26th September 2017


A decorated Second World War veteran had left the majority of his estate to his four surviving children and to his grandchildren by a daughter who had predeceased him. By a codicil to his will that he signed a few months before his death, he made the mistake of appointing his youngest son as his executor. That decision lay at the root of a dispute notable for deep and bitter enmity between siblings.

After his death, the son made no attempt to take out a grant of probate or otherwise fulfil the role with which his father had entrusted him. A judge ultimately removed him as executor and appointed his older brother as personal representative of the estate. The latter subsequently launched proceedings against his younger sibling to recover money that he was alleged to have misappropriated from the estate.

The High Court condemned the younger son as an aggressive and gratuitously rude witness who appeared to have felt that his position as executor gave him the right to do whatever he wished with his father’s estate. He had, amongst other things, withdrawn £76,000 from his father’s bank account and kept it for himself, rather than sharing it amongst the beneficiaries of the will.

His father’s military medals had been lost or stolen whilst he was executor and he had also breached his legal duties by refusing to part with the title deeds to the family home so that it could be sold and the proceeds divided. The Court would hear further argument as to the precise sums he would be required to reimburse the estate. It also took the rare step of referring papers in the case to the police.