Vulnerable Beneficiary

The partners of this firm are the executors of a modest estate where the sole beneficiary ( deceased’s daughter) is an alcoholic vulnerable adult . She currently lives in the deceased’s house which needs to be sold to settle the outstanding mortgage. She is unable to hold down a job for any length of time due to her alcoholism. The beneficiary is also a client of the firm in her personal capacity. At times (when she is drinking) the beneficiary lacks capacity. She does not have a POA in place (and is unwilling to enter into a POA) and there is no deputy appointed for her.

The beneficiary will have a housing need on the sale of the estate property and our concern is that she will not use the inheritance to meet that need, instead spending it on drink. That is of course her choice, however, our concern is that the beneficiary will, in due course, say that we should not have distributed the estate funds to her, knowing her vulnerability (in her capacity as a client of the firm). I don’t think we have any option to distribute directly to her assuming we are happy that she has capacity at the time of distribution, but would welcome any other views or comments from anyone who has experienced a similar situation.

Sarah Arundel
Taylor Fawcett

Hi Sarah,

A common issue.

S.27 AEA 1925 provides that the executor acts in good faith. The act provides protection for the executor or PR.

She cannot (in law) blame your firm. On the basis no defect in the validity in the representation. I’d suggest there is not.

You could - vary the will (with her permission) to trust, does the firm want to then deal with the client etc.

As in so many cases, why did the deceased not make a new will to offset this problem.

Richard Bishop

Have the executors considered approaching local social services? Their involvement may provide some comfort that the executors have done all they can to safeguard the beneficiary.

Tom Bradfield
New Quadrant Partners Ltd