There are a number of reasons why someone might wish to decline becoming an executor, despite having been named as one in a Will.
They may not have the time to deal with the administration of the estate, which could be lengthy and time-consuming. They may feel that the role is more than they can cope with, for example if they feel that it will be complicated or they have limited capacity. Or they may simply not want to take on the responsibility, which can be quite onerous, as the executor has to collect in and value all of the assets in the estate, account for all debts and liabilities, draw up accounts and distribute the net estate to the named beneficiaries.
How to renounce the role of executor
It is important that the decision to renounce is taken as soon as possible, and certainly before any action is taken on behalf of the estate. The named executor will need to sign a deed of renunciation, which can be drawn up by a probate practitioner, and which then needs to be lodged with the Probate Registry.
It is essential that no acts of administration are carried out by someone wishing to renounce their executorship. This includes even minor tasks such as advising a bank of the death or taking receipt of any money owed to the estate. This is classed as intermeddling in the estate, and means that it will then be very difficult to renounce.
Who can act as executor if someone renounces
The Will may have appointed two executors, in which case the remaining executor can continue to act providing that the Will allows for them to act individually.
If no other executors were appointed then an application can be made to the court to appoint an administrator.
Avoiding the renunciation problem
It is possible to appoint a professional executor in a Will, such as a solicitor. In that case, they will be experienced in the complexities of administering an estate and are unlikely to renounce.
They will be able to deal with the winding-up of the estate, including assessing any tax liabilities, and will prepare estate accounts once the matter is nearing completion.
This can often help families avoid difficult situations where people may feel they are being left out of the process or not being kept informed of progress.
After a death, emotions can run high and there is sometimes a risk of disputes arising. By appointing a professional executor to deal with the estate, people can be reassured that matters are being dealt with properly and in accordance with the Will and the rule of law.