When can an executor be removed?

When can an executor be removed?

What circumstances are required in order for an executor to be removed by the court? Mark Cunningham QC, a barrister at Maitland Chambers, and counsel for the claimant in Nat West v Lucas, considers the judgment and explains the legal issues involved.

Original news

National Westminster Bank plc v Lucas and others [2014] EWHC 653 (Ch), [2014] All ER (D) 92 (Mar)

The proceedings concerned applications made in respect of the administration of the estate of the deceased television presenter Jimmy Savile. Under the deceased’s will, the residue of the estate was left to a charitable trust (the trust). However, there was a risk that claims for personal injury in respect of alleged child sex abuse, made against the estate, could leave the estate insolvent. The Chancery Division dismissed the trust’s application to remove the claimant bank as executor and personal representative of the estate. Further, the court approved a scheme designed to facilitate the speedy and inexpensive resolution of personal injury claims made against the deceased’s estate and it granted validation of expenses incurred by the bank in the course of administering the estate.

What key issues did this case raise?

The main issue was how an executor was to conduct the administration of an estate when there was a contest between the will beneficiaries on the one hand, and potential claimants on the other, where the claims might render the estate insolvent. The corollary of this issue was the question of what circumstances are required in order for an executor to be removed by the court.

To what extent did the judgment clarify the law in this area? Are there any grey areas or unresolved issues remaining?

The judgment followed, and was consistent with, a line of well-known cases dealing with the removal of executors/trustees. These cases are:

  1. Letterstedt v Broers (1884) 9 App Cas 371
  2. Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation v Carvel [2007] EWHC 1314 (Ch),[2007] 4 All ER 81, and
  3. Kershaw v Mickelthwaite

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