Q: My aunt recently passed away. In her Will she appointed my sister and me as her executors. This could be a problem though as my sister has been living in Australia for the past few years. Can you please tell me whether my sister is still required to act as an executor and sign all the paperwork before we can apply for probate? Or can I sign everything without her? Otherwise it is going to be very difficult if she has got to come over from Australia and stay until everything has been dealt with.
A: There might have been many reasons why your aunt appointed both you and your sister as her executors. One reason, for example, could have been that by appointing both of you she thought you would be able to assist and support each other. However, if your sister is finding it difficult to undertake the task of being an executor then it is possible for you to apply for probate by yourself.
Your sister could formally renounce her appointment as an executor, but only if she has not already become involved in the administration of your aunt’s estate. An alternative would be for you to apply for probate alone and serve notice on her that you are doing so. If you decide to take the latter option it would have the advantage that, should she need to, your sister can still apply for ‘double probate’. In addition that would mean that, after probate has been obtained, you alone would be able to sign the bereavement and account closure forms for the banks to call in the funds.
If you decide to follow a route other than that which your aunt intended, you may want to consult with a solicitor to guide you through the stages of executing your duties.