The trouble with appointing loved ones as executors of your will is that they are likely to be grief-stricken and there can be no guarantee that they will get on. A High Court decision showed that appointing a professional to perform the task is often the best way to save money and preserve harmony.
The case concerned a businessman who sadly died at a young age. He had assets worth about £920,000, principally made up of three properties and his shares in a company he ran with his life partner. The partner and the deceased's brother were appointed executors of the estate.
After the executors failed to see eye to eye, the brother launched proceedings on the basis that the partner had refused to participate in the process of obtaining a grant of probate. The partner denied that there had been any lack of cooperation on his part and eventually agreed that he and the brother should both step down as executors and be replaced by a legal professional.
The executors, however, both put forward candidates to fulfil that role and the Court was required to adjudicate between them. There was little between the candidates' knowledge and experience and both were well qualified to perform the task. The Court, however, appointed the candidate preferred by the partner, principally on the basis that he would charge a lower hourly rate for his services in executing a will that contained no complicated or unusual provisions.
The Court expressed sympathy for the partner, who had suffered a devastating grief reaction to the businessman's death. Although he had presented his case well and appropriately, he had used language in pre-trial correspondence which was at times intemperate. Due to such unreasonable conduct, he was ordered to pay the legal costs of the case on the punitive indemnity basis.