What happens if an executor dies after Probate has been granted but before administration of the Estate is finalised?
An executor is a person appointed under the terms of a Will to carry out the deceased’s wishes in accordance with that Will, but what happens when that person dies after Probate has been granted and administration of the estate has not been finalised?
If the deceased’s estate requires a grant of Probate from the Supreme Court, and there are two or more executors, if one of those executors dies before administration of the estate is finalised then the surviving executor(s) are able to complete the administration.
However, if there is only one executor who is granted Probate and they die, then it is the executor of the now deceased’s executor’s Will who is able to complete the administration of the first estate. This is known as the chain of executorial representation.
But difficulties arise if the executor of the first estate did not have a Will appointing an executor. In this instance, the chain of executorial representation is broken. This raises the question: who is entitled to complete the administration of the first estate?
It is usually the major beneficiary of the first estate who will need to make an application to the Supreme Court for Letters of Administration de bonis non (meaning “of goods no administered). This will appoint that person as the administrator of the first estate to enable the administration that estate to be finalised.
However, this will result in further significant costs being incurred by the estate.
The takeaway here is to ensure the person you have appointed as your executor is the best person to administer your estate in a timely manner. We recently had an estate where the deceased died over a decade ago and administration wasn’t finalised. The executor of that estate recently died without leaving a Will. Therefore, an application for Letters of Administration de bonis non has been applied for and further costs incurred.
You may also wish to consider appointing more than one executor in your Will that work together, and if one of them passes away, the surviving executor can complete the administration of the estate.