No one anticipates a dispute between executors. In a perfect world, the appointment of more than one executor would enable the executors to decide on a path forward together. Two heads are better than one, after all. But, disputes between executors happens frequently. When a conflict arises, it can be devastating for the administration of the estate because of increased costs, delays and unnecessary stress on all parties involved. In addition, these disagreements will likely waste estate assets and inevitably damage relationships.
In Queensland, executors of a Will often need to apply to the Supreme Court of Queensland for a Grant of Probate to enable them to deal with the deceased’s estate. Once the grant is made, they will need to administer the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.
Perfectly rational people may react unreasonably when a loved one passes away. But some situations can prove more difficult than others that exacerbate anxiety – for example, when a child of an earlier marriage now of legal adult age and a second spouse is asked to be co-executors. A will that was written personally and not by a solicitor can cause problems. The language can be ambiguous, and a Will that treats a child or spouse unequally in blended families will almost certainly result in challenges. Large and complex estates are more likely to be the subject of a dispute than a smaller estate – bigger money, bigger problems.
Examples Of Common Disputes Between Executors
- If the housing market is experiencing a downturn, one of the executors may want to hold off on selling the property in hopes of getting a higher selling price in the future. At the same time, the other executor might want to deal with the estate and get it over with.
- Executors that disagree about the value of particular assets;
- Whether a property should be sold on the open market or whether to allow a beneficiary to purchase said property;
- Which real estate agent to appoint to list the property for sale. Executors might not trust the other party to pick a real estate agent;
- How to distribute the deceased’s personal belongings, specifically valuables such as jewellery and family heirlooms, for items not gifted to a specific beneficiary in the Will.
Careless Handling And Administrative Mishaps Of The Estate
A second broad category of potential problems involves the careless handling of assets and administrative mishaps. They are far more common than the disputes between executors but no less troublesome.
- Disputes about the costs involved to settle an estate. These can include fees paid to solicitors, real estate agents and appraisers;
- Excessive haste in applying for probate can cause certain assets to be overlooked;
- Disputes about the transfer of assets out of the estate during the final years or months of the deceased’s life, especially when it was done under a “Power of Attorney”;
- Too much of a delay in applying for probate. In Queensland, executors usually apply for Probate within six months of the date of death. Distributions should take place within a year; beyond that, beneficiaries could start losing patience.
How To Avoid Co-Executor Disputes In Queensland
- Keep a detailed calendar of deadlines;
- Be sure to keep careful financial records of estate assets and the costs involved with administering the estate;
- Whenever you believe that you might have a conflict of interest, consult with your solicitor immediately about limiting your role as co-executor or renouncing it outright;
- Manage beneficiary expectations with regular and clear communication.
For anyone making a will:
- Use the services of a competent estate lawyer to draw up a Will and review your entire estate plan to ensure that your wishes will be followed and your loved ones are taken care of without disputes after your passing;
- When you’re considering appointing multiple executors, be mindful of their relationship with one another;
- Discuss your will with the executors and those who will benefit or think they will benefit from your estate; if you can avoid secrets and surprises, the chances of problems, later on, reduce significantly.
How Queensland Probate Can Help You
Prevention is always better than cure but, if you find yourself embroiled in an executor dispute or in a dispute over a will, speak to one of our solicitors to keep the dispute from getting out of hand. The quicker it’s solved the less damage will be done.
Queensland Probate’s solicitors are on hand to guide you through the process to help protect your interests as well. If you have any questions regarding your duties as an executor or wish to seek legal advice, speak to us today or visit us at our new offices in Brisbane here!