Removing an executor

Removal of an executor by the testator

If you need to amend your appointment of executors in your will, you can do so by making a simple codicil. You may wish to take someone off and replace them with someone else or add another executor, appoint substitute executors, etc. All of these things can be done in a codicil which you just need to sign in the same way as you signed your will (i.e. in the presence of two independent adult witnesses who should also sign and insert their names, addresses and occupations). To find out more about codicils see What is a codicil?

Removal of an executor after death

Once you have died, removing an executor becomes more complicated. The removal of an executor is different from an executor choosing to stand down. Whereas the latter is a voluntary decision, the removal of an executor is a court process instigated by someone other than the executor. It may be that a beneficiary questions the executor’s actions or alleges that they are not performing their duties correctly.

Once an application to court has been made, a decision will be made as to whether or not to remove the executor, and whether a substitute will be appointed to take their place. An attempt to remove an executor is not an easy application. There must be proof of serious misbehaviour on the executor’s part before the court will even consider removing them. Generally, it needs to be shown that the executor is:

  • incapable of performing his duties; and
  • unsuitable for the position.

Court processes can be time-consuming and costly for those involved. It is therefore important to consider carefully who you would like to name as your executors in the first place, and to consult with them before formalising it in your will. Doing so may help to avoid future disputes and ensure that whoever you choose to be your executors do in fact end up administering your estate. 

Your choice of executors is entirely your own but you may feel that by appointing a professional executor you can limit some of the risks outlined above.