Choosing the right executor can make – or break – your will
Choosing someone as your legal representative or executor is a very important decision. Often, sometimes for financial reasons, people decide to appoint a close family member or friend to manage the administration of their estate after their death or to handle their affairs should they lose their mental capacity and, more often than not, this does not create a problem.
But what happens if the person they choose is not honest? No official checks are made on the work of a lay executor or legal representative, and lately the number of claims against dishonest or fraudulent executors has risen. Denzil Lush, a former senior Court of Protection judge, recently highlighted the lack of such safeguards, warning that we should all be more aware of the risks inherent in empowering others to act on our behalf – whether by appointing executors or by signing over lasting powers of attorney.
If an attorney acts dishonestly or an executor retains or distributes assets fraudulently, then legally they are in breach of their fiduciary duty and as such can be pursued through the courts – providing their wrongdoing comes to light. Unfortunately it is often the case that, once discovered, the proceeds of such wrongful behaviour have long since been spent, leaving very little prospect of recovering any lost assets.
So what alternatives are open to us? While it would be naïve to suggest there is no such thing as a dishonest lawyer, appointing a solicitor to act as your executor or legal representative may incur a cost but is more likely than not to ensure the duties you entrust to them will be carried out with honesty and integrity. If something does go wrong, not only do you have recourse to your solicitor’s professional indemnity insurance but you also have the reassurance of knowing their work is overseen by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which maintains a compensation fund to repay victims of dishonest solicitors.
No matter what your legacy, everyone should make a will to ensure their wishes are carried out after death – it is equally important to appoint a reliable and trustworthy executor to safeguard your best interests and those of your beneficiaries.
For further information about making a will and appointing executors, and to learn more about George Ide’s executor services, call our Chichester offices on 01243 786668 or email the team in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ian Oliver. Partner, civil litigation department.
General, George Ide, News, Private Client, Wills and Probate