(Executor or Administrator)
- A personal representative is the name given to a person appointed as executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate.
- As a personal representative of an estate, you have a duty to remain neutral and not prejudice any proposed claim, even though you may not agree with, or accept that, the person has a claim against the estate.
- Your primary role is to provide the Court and the parties to the dispute with full information relating to the estate, including details about the assets and liabilities and any other relevant information about the estate. For example, whether you have made any distributions.
- You should also notify all beneficiaries and potential defendants of the proposed claim and provide copies of any information received in support of it.
- Given the neutral role that you are expected to take, your legal costs should be quite limited and provided that you remain neutral, you will be entitled to have your legal costs and expenses paid from the estate. Failure to adopt a neutral stance in relation to the proposed claim may result in you having to pay your legal costs from your own pocket.
- As a beneficiary, there is no need to take a neutral stance regarding a proposed claim. It is for the beneficiaries to defend a proposed claim, should they wish to do so, save for the beneficiaries of small legacies.
- It is advisable to take legal advice and consider the merits of the proposed claim at an early stage.
- If you decide that you want to defend the claim, you should follow the Court's pre-action protocol which includes providing information to the other parties regarding your reasons for defending the claim, or any competing financial need that you may have.
- It is likely that you will need to pay your legal costs as the claim progresses, as you are not automatically entitled to have your costs paid by the estate (see our previous blog on costs for more information regarding funding your defence of a proposed claim).
- You should act as reasonably as possible, as you may be penalised by the Court if you adopt a wholly unreasonable position and/or adopt an overly aggressive approach to the claim.
- You are encouraged by the Court to engage in methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (see our previous blog for more information on this). Making sensible and realistic without prejudice offers can also help to reduce the risk that you have to pay a proportion of the legal costs incurred by the person bringing the claim.
Personal Representative AND Beneficiary
- It is important to try and keep your two roles as separate as much as possible and satisfy your duties as personal representative, in addition to taking steps to defend your position as a beneficiary of the estate, should you wish to do so.
- If you wish to defend your position as a beneficiary, it is advisable to take legal advice regarding the merits of the proposed claim and follow the steps set out relating to beneficiaries above.
- Whilst doing this you should also carry out the steps above relating to executors including providing information about the assets and liabilities of the estate to the parties.
This blog was part of a series by the Contentious Private Client Team on the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. If you’d like to read the rest of the series, please see the links below. If you’d like to talk to someone in the Team about anything that featured in this series, please feel free to contact us on 0113 336 3427 and one of the Team will be able to assist.
Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.