Parents often choose their children to act as joint executors but this can be a recipe for disaster if they don’t have a good relationship. In January 2018 newspapers reported on a charged dispute between three brothers over their mother’s will. The Heath brothers, all benefited equally from the £1.8 million estate, but the case came to court when one of the brothers argued that he should have a greater share because he had made financial sacrifices to take care of his mother while his two brothers pursued successful medical careers.
How the estate will ultimately be distributed isn’t known but two of the Heath brothers have successfully taken the third brother to court and had him removed as an executor, with the judge ruling that he could no longer remain in the role while he is pursuing a claim for a bigger share of the estate. The judge has stipulated that an independent executor should now be appointed in his place but he has also ordered that the other two brothers, who brought the case, will have to pay their own costs of £25,000.
It seems unlikely that Mrs Heath hoped that this would be the outcome of her legacy but stories of feuding siblings are all too common when it comes to executors and wills. While Mrs Heath’s legacy seems superficially fair, awarding her children an equal share of the estate, she evidently underestimated the underlying acrimony between her sons.
Disputes are costly to the estate and beneficiaries; they are also very damaging for families and the problems over Mrs Heath’s legacy are not unique. We often choose our children as executors because they are the people we trust most but parents who are aware that there is sibling rivalry or resentment should think carefully about whether this is the best course of action. Equally if you have been named as an executor of a will with a brother or sister, who you do not get on with, it is advisable to talk to your parents and discuss using an independent executor instead. Relationships between brothers and sisters can become much more strained following the death of a parent this can be especially problematic when they are also beneficiaries. No matter how you feel about your siblings, if you are an executor of a parental will, it is worth considering executors insurance as soon as you take on the role.