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Official court statistics indicate that the number of claims against executors for breaches of fiduciary duty have more than tripled in the past year, reaching 368 in 2013.
The claims range from outright theft of assets by the executor to fraudulent distribution of assets (unjustly favouring certain beneficiaries of the Will above others).
There is speculation that the increase is linked to the rise of DIY estate administration.
The Chairman of the Law Society’s Wills and Equity committee said the risk of mismanagement increases as more and more people take out probate themselves. He added ‘Many wrongly perceive the task to be simpler than it is… There will always be lay executors who can do the job well and are perfectly trustworthy, but there will always be a group of executors who either administer an estate badly through ignorance or administer it fraudulently,’
This is a reminder to choose one’s Executors with great care. In the rare case that the Executor who steals or mismanages is a solicitor ( as opposed to a “lawyer” or friend), then the loss can be reclaimed from the solicitors’ compensation fund. However, where the Executor who does wrong ( deliberately or accidentally e.g. through a lack of tax knowledge) is not a solicitor, then there is no compensation fund. Although the executor can be sued, in these cases they often turn out to no longer have assets which can be used for compensation.
If you need any assistance, please contact Catherine Ball on 01604 463337 or click here to email Catherine. For more information on our Probate services click here.