The Value of Professional Executors & Trustees
“The worst kind of trust and inheritance litigation …” is how the judge referred to the situation in Batt v Boswell  EWHC 649 (Ch).
The case dealt with an inheritance dispute between two siblings over their late parents’ estate. The father died a few years before the mother. For his estate, the mother and brother were trustees, whilst both siblings were appointed executors of the mother’s estate. When the mother passed away, the brother brought a claim to remove the sister as co-executor of their mother’s estate, claiming conflict of interest.
At that stage, the sister was bringing an action against the mother’s estate, alleging breach of trust. The dispute arose due to confusion over trust money and personal money. She felt that her mother did not act in accordance with the father’s trust and that her portion of the fund had diminished as a result.
The court held that the sister should have removed herself as co-executor. As a beneficiary of her father’s trust, she was bringing claims against her mother’s estate, of which she was a co-executor. As a result, she was in a state of “irreconcilable conflict.”
In this case, the family could have avoided many issues that arose by appointing professional executors and trustees.
Professional executors and trustees would:
- Mitigate the risk and consequences of sibling conflict and conflict of interest; a professional is a neutral party when dealing with conflicting beneficiary interests.
- Assist with complex or controversial decisions; professionals ensure that complicated business or family finances continue to run smoothly and efficiently.
- Have the knowledge and expertise to manage the estate properly; administering an estate or trust is a highly technical area of law with precise requirements.
- Avoid legal difficulties; unlike family members, professionals will be fully aware of their legal duties as executors and trustees. They understand the consequences of a failure to act appropriately. Family members might not be aware of what is required of them, leading to costly mistakes.
- Act impartially and fairly; emotions can often run high in family matters leading to stress and disputes. A professional will independently carry out the wishes of the deceased.
- Ease the administrative burden; administering an estate is technical and involves a lot of paperwork and administration for which family members might not have time.
Even close-knit families can have conflicting interests when it comes to inheritance. However, litigation should be the last resort in settling family disputes. The impact on relationships can be devastating, and, inevitably, one party ends up with a substantial legal bill.
Choosing trustees or executors is thus a pivotal decision that can significantly impact how your wishes are enacted. By appointing professionals, you can avoid costly and stressful litigation between family members, and your estate can be managed professionally and effectively.
Get in touch with CTT Law’s solicitors if you want to find out more.