Q: My brother and I are beneficiaries of our father’s Will, though I am sole executor. For three years before our father died, I also had sole power of attorney over our father’s affairs as my brother lives abroad. After taking over the handling of our father’s finances I had to pay out considerable sums for essential repairs on his house, which had been badly neglected. I considered this essential, to increase the property’s value should funds be needed to pay for his care. As it turned out, I moved in to look after him.
Now my brother is accusing me of having pilfered money from the estate as its probate value is lower than he was expecting. I can’t prove what I spent as I didn’t keep receipts. He is threatening to make a claim against me and have me removed as executor. I have no money of my own to fight him so what can I do?
A: If you and your brother are unable to resolve the dispute over your father’s Will, and you are facing a claim against you as an executor, you can seek legal help and claim full reimbursement for the cost of it from the estate before the proceeds are distributed, in the form of an indemnity. As well as this, the costs of legal advice to help in the administration of the estate are also recoverable from the estate prior to any distribution of assets, should intervention become necessary.
As sole executor you cannot be expected to deal with a complex legal dispute on your own, so provided it is reasonable to seek legal advice you should do so. However, the suggestion of recoverable costs provision to the disputing party, and the fact that such costs can end up diminishing the residual pay-out to beneficiaries, is often sufficient to achieve an early resolution. If this does not happen, you should seek legal advice immediately.
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