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What happens if an executor dies?

Our People - Andrew Guile
11 November, 2022

If the executor of a will dies, someone else can step in to administer the estate. Who can do this depends upon at what stage in the probate process the executor has died and whether or not there are any surviving executors.

It is generally a good idea to name more than one executor in your will. If you do name one sole executor, appoint some individuals as the replacement executors in case your executor either predeceases you or is unable or unwilling to act. You should also inform the people that you are planning to name as your executors. 

If your executor has died during your lifetime, and no other replacements have been named in the will, then you could either create a new will or a codicil to the original will in order to name another executor. This is one of the reasons as to why you should review your will every 3-5 years.

What happens if an executor dies before obtaining a grant probate?

If your executor survives you but dies before obtaining a grant of probate, then if there is another executor or a replacement executor listed in your will, they will be expected to act. If no other executor has been named then one of the main beneficiaries will be able to apply for ‘letters of administration’ to become the personal representative of the estate.

What happens if an executor dies after obtaining grant of probate?

If a grant of probate has been issued and the executor dies before administering and/or distributing the estate then what happens next depends upon your will.

  • if there is more than one executor to whom probate has been granted, the remaining executor(s) can continue with the administration of the estate but there needs to be a re-grant of probate to reflect who now has authority to administer the estate.
  • if you named only one executor and that executor died without leaving a will of their own, then a beneficiary of your will can apply for letters of administration.
  • if other executors are named in the will (NB – this does not include replacement executors), who have not previously renounced their duties (i.e. if they have had ‘power reserved’ to them), they can apply for a re-grant of probate to continue the administration of the estate.
  • If your sole executor dies leaving a will of their own, then it is their executor’s responsibility to administer your estate. This is called the ‘Chain of Representation’. The original grant will have to be revoked and re-issued in the name of the new executor.

This is a complex area of law and at times confusing. If you have been named as an executor of a will or you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our Wills and Probate Solicitors or get in touch on 020 8492 2290.

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