Executor dispute with distribution


I’d be grateful for help on this probate matter that I have inherited.

One of the partners of the firm is an executor, the other executor is a lay person and one of six residuary beneficiaries. My predecessor mistakenly did not pay out £15k when distributing the estate. We therefore require the residuary beneficiaries to return £15k in order to distribute the estate correctly. The lay executor does not yet agree with this.

What are our options here?

Thanks in advance.


The lay executor does not yet agree with this

What are they suggesting?

Richard Bishop

Hello - thanks for your response. There is still £5k worth of funds that may be owed to the estate from a third party (actually detailed in the “Cheque being debited from bank” post below). The lay executor has said that this needs to be resolved before we pursue the beneficiaries.

It seems that the executors have managed to make distributions without collecting the £5k but perhaps they now have insufficient funds to pursue the debt. Surely a hard-nosed assessment must first be made of the realistic prospects of recovery and any related costs. The money might all have been dissipated already. On the face of it the claim would be within the small claims limit.

Executors can act on their own authority independently of the beneficiaries but the lay executor needs to be squared one way or the other as a divergence of views as to the way ahead will be problematic. Not knowing the details, it seems a reasonable proposition in principle to pursue the claim before trying to claw back distributed funds. What do the distributees (of which the lay executor is one) think about the plan and how it might be funded? Do they have any non-legal reservations e.g. adverse publicity or personal human concern about tackling this precise target?

It might be prudent in any event to attempt to secure the written consent of the 6 residuaries as such to whatever action is or is not ultimately decided upon. If the executors wish to take action and have no or insufficient funds to proceed the 6 will either have to cough up or shut up. If for whatever reason they would prefer not to, ideally signified in writing, the executors must surely then weigh up very carefully whether to go ahead, even if sensibly funded by themselves. I do not jump to the conclusion that they will all be co-operative but a hint at the right to claw back in default might concentrate the mind.

Maxine Higgins rightly draws attention in the other thread to the potential criminal law implications. The authorities were recently reported as sanguine about ignoring the theft of a bloke’s £60k car, which he had to recover himself. Mind how you go! Bearing in mind that the executors must at least decide whether to report that issue, notwithstanding the doubtful outcome, it might be another point on which the residuaries should be consulted. I have never had to consider whether a solicitor-executor might be bound to report or risk the SRA’s delight in striking him off.

Jack Harper

Many thanks for your response. There is indeed nothing left in the pot to pursue the £5k. We have agreed to not bill for correspondence with the bank (at this present time).

Since informing the beneficiaries of the situation, we have not heard back from any, save the executor. There are no non-legal reservations made known to us.