Your executors are not under any obligation to take on the role. Even if you appoint only one executor, they will still have the option to stand down if they are unwilling or unable to fulfil their duties when the time comes. If this is the case, it will become necessary for someone else to apply to the court as an administrator.
There are any number of reasons why an appointed executor might not wish to act. For example:
So just because the will names a person as executor, it does not mean that that person has to act as an executor. If they are choosing to step down, they can renounce the role.
To do so they will need to complete a ‘form of renunciation’, available from the Probate Registry (which is responsible for issuing grants of probate and grants of letters of administration).
In the event that your executor chooses to renounce their position, renunciation takes effect immediately. Renunciation does not grant them the right to appoint another person in their place.
Obviously there may be circumstances where an executor is not able to act:
If you appointed a sole executor and they die before you without you appointing someone else in their place, your estate will be administered by the person first entitled under the rules of intestacy. This does not mean that your will is invalid, or that you will be deemed to have died intestate, just that the person who will act as your personal representative (in effect your executor) may not be the person you would have chosen.
If a person no longer has mental capacity to act as executor when you die, then the other executors (if any) can act; if there are no other executors, then the law sets out how someone else would be able to apply for probate.
You cannot guarantee when you make your will that the people you nominate as executors will be able and available to be your executors when you die.
Obviously it is a good idea for you to change your will if you discover that one of your executors does not wish to act or is unable to do so. But sometimes you may not be aware until it is too late. So it’s clearly a good idea to: