Yes, you can retire from your role as an executor with an important exception.
A ‘personal representative’ refers to either an executor who has been appointed to act in that capacity under someone’s will, or a person who has a right to become an administrator under the rules of intestacy (where there is no will). Both have the right to renounce from their role if they do not wish to act in the administration.
What is the exception?
The right to probate may not be renounced where an executor has ‘intermeddled’ in the estate. This is where an individual has performed tasks which indicate they have already accepted their role, such as selling the deceased’s assets or paying debts. Some tasks are acceptable, and it would be advisable to seek legal advice if you are unsure whether you have intermeddled in an estate before seeking to renounce.
In the case of an intestacy, an administrator’s authority to act in the estate is not conferred on them until the grant is issued, so any prior acts of ‘intermeddling’ will not prevent them from renouncing from their right to apply for the grant.
Why might I renounce from my role?
There may be many reasons for wishing to renounce. Perhaps the personal representative is not situated in the same country as the estate, they are suffering with poor health or they find the task too onerous.
There may also be legal or financial reasons, such as a doubt to the validity of the will, or a concern that the estate is insolvent.
What are the consequences of renouncing?
When a personal representative renounces from their role, their right to act ceases, and someone else will become entitled to apply in their place. The alternative personal representative may be the remaining or substitute executors in the will, or the next person who is entitled under the intestacy rules.
Is there an alternative?
As an alternative, a personal representative may ‘reserve’ their right rather than ‘renouncing’ it entirely. In order to do this, any other people applying for the grant must give that person notice that they are applying without them. The Probate Registry will then make a note on the grant that the person wishing to reserve their executorship has done so.
This means that, in future, if that person wishes to ‘revive’ their right to act as personal representative in the administration of the estate, they may do so.
The role of a personal representative comes with great responsibility and also great risk. Our solicitors can ensure that you follow the correct procedure to minimise any exposure to personal liability, and we always recommend that you seek advice early on.
If you would like to discuss retiring from your executor role with a member of our Inheritance Protection team, click here.