A prominent New Zealander has been removed as an Executor of an Estate because they could not be contacted to attend to necessary duties under their role as Executor. 

The stepmother and wife of the deceased successfully applied to the High Court to remove the Executor because they failed to act in their role to transfer property under the Estate to a beneficiary.  The wife of the deceased wanted to move into a retirement village and needed to sell the house.  She discovered that the house had not been transferred into her sole name as it should have been. 

The Court found that despite extensive efforts from the widow and her lawyers to contact them, neither of the two Executors could be located.  There was evidence that a couriered letter had been sent to one of the Executors asking them to take the necessary steps, so that the beneficiary could move to a retirement home.  However, nothing was done by the Executors. 

The Court said that, “…it was apparent that the Executors had not acted in accordance with their duties.  They did not take all the required steps to administer the Estate.  The Court went on to say it may well be that they are presently distracted by more pressing matters at the moment, but this is having a distressing impact on the beneficiary.” 

The Court removed the two Executors and appointed the beneficiary as a sole Executor. 

The Executors had also been away from New Zealand for more than 12 months and had failed to appoint anybody in replacement to perform their duties as Executors in their absence. 

This case is a reminder that the role of the Executor is a privileged position and that any unnecessary delays in acting can result in Executors being removed from their role.  This is a High Court action, it can be a very expensive process, and costs can also be ordered against Executors who do not perform their duties.

If you are in a situation where you are a beneficiary of an Estate where the Executor is not acting as they should, or if you are an Executor wanting clarification on your role, it is best to talk to a professional experienced in the area of Estate Law.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-priced Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced family law team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

 

 

Shaun Cousins
Family Lawyer
Wellington