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Court Ruling Does Not Over Scrutinise Executors

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

According to Step the England and Wales High Court has ruled that an executor who obtains legal advice during estate administration need not provide details of the reasons for the resulting charges in the estate accounts, other than the basic voucher stating the fees charged.

The case involved the estate of Louise Patience, who died more than twenty years ago, leaving her property among her four adult children.

As executors she named one of her daughters, Anita Mussell, and her solicitor, David Williams.

On her death these two applied for, and obtained, a grant of probate and proceeded to administration of the estate. However, before the assets were distributed, a dispute arose in which the beneficiaries objected to the legal fees incurred by the executors.

Here the judge took the view that, in relation to the estate accounts, an executor has only to show that the sum concerned was indeed spent, and that it was spent in the 'fair execution' of the estate administration.

He would normally prove the disbursement by producing a voucher, but this need not disclose the number of hours worked or the hourly rate used to arrive at the total charged, or give a detailed breakdown of exactly what work was done, 'unless and until some other evidence is adduced by the beneficiaries to that end'.