Appointment of personal representatives
Appointment of personal representatives

The following Wills & Probate guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Appointment of personal representatives
  • Appointment
  • Acceptance of office
  • Number
  • Passing over the person entitled
  • Power reserved
  • Chain of representation
  • Executor de son tort
  • Letters of administration with the Will annexed
  • Letters of administration
  • more


Executors may be appointed:

  1. expressly by Will

  2. impliedly by Will (according to the tenor of the Will)

  3. the Will may nominate someone to appoint executors. If so, the nominated person may appoint himself

  4. through the chain of representation

  5. by the court

Acceptance of office

Methods of accepting office of executor include:

  1. obtaining a grant of probate

  2. performing acts that constitute acceptance of office, eg the release of a debt of the testator

An executor who has accepted office cannot renounce.

An executor cannot accept office in part and refuse in part: they must accept or refuse the office as a whole.


Section 114 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 (SCA 1981) provides that while a testator can appoint any number of executors a grant of probate cannot issue to more than four persons in respect of the same part of the deceased’s estate.

If the testator has appointed more than four persons and all wish to act, the grant will issue to the first four to apply with power reserved to the others.

The Non-contentious Probate Rules 1987 (NCPR 1987) make provision for notice of the application to be given to the executors to whom power is being reserved.

If there is a dispute as to which four are to take out the grant, the matter will be referred to