This decision serves as a warning to executors who shirk their responsibilities by demonstrating a persistent and wilful refusal to progress the administration of an estate.
In this case, the three (adult) children of the deceased obtained a grant of letters of administration jointly. Two of the children (the plaintiffs) then brought proceedings seeking a revocation of the grant on the basis that they sought a fresh grant to continue as administrators without the third adult child (the defendant).
The defendant did not file any material or seek to take any step in the proceeding. The Court therefore accepted the plaintiffs’ evidence that the defendant had failed to take appropriate action to progress the administration of the estate, including refusing to:
- agree to participate with the other administrators in giving instructions to the solicitors acting on behalf of the estate in family provision proceedings brought against the estate;
- participate in giving instructions for the sale of an estate property;
- comply with requests to sign documents to enable the estate property to be transmitted into the names of the administrators for the purposes of being sold; and
- attend the solicitors’ office to sign documents to deal with the administration of the deceased’s estate.
In the circumstances, the Court decided to exercise its discretionary power to revoke the grant of administration because it was persuaded on the evidence available that the administration of the estate was not being carried out properly. The Court also considered the welfare of the beneficiaries in determining that it was in their best interests to replace one of the administrators, as the deceased’s estate had up until that point been placed in jeopardy unless the defendant was removed from his office.
The Court ordered the defendant to personally pay the plaintiffs’ ordinary costs of the application, and the difference between their ordinary and indemnity costs to be paid out of the estate.
This article was written by Simon Crawford, Partner, Angela Liaskos, Senior Associate and Jinny Guo, Law Graduate.