Legal Responsibilities and Liabilities of Executors and Administrators
Executors and Statutory Duty of Care
The Trustee Act of 2000 which extends to England and Wales, has clarified the law on the management of deceased estates in relation to both professional and lay executors.
All executors have a statutory duty of care to carry out the administration of an estate with care and skill – which broadly means that the executor must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and avoid loss or injury to the estate.
This Act outlines that the status of an executor, their professional occupation, will be taken into consideration in the event of a complaint or legal action. The Act has imposed both legal responsibilities and unlimited personal liability on all executors, (mistakes and poor management by a professional executor would be viewed more critically than errors made by a lay executor -this proviso is also partially dependent on the executor’s special knowledge, experience or professional status).
What is the difference between an Executor and Administrator?
Executors – An executor or group of executors is named in a will and given rights of management over the deceased’s estate. The executor must apply for ‘grant of probate’ through the local probate registry to proceed with the management of the estate.
Administrators – If someone dies intestate (dies without writing a will) or if a will has been written but cannot be found a close relative will apply for the right to administrate the deceased estate – an administrator of an estate is appointed by the Probate Registry. The administrator must apply to the Probate Registry for ‘a grant of letters of administration’ of the estate in order to to proceed with probate.