Intermeddling in an estate
Produced in partnership with Jenny Bird and Charlotte Kynaston of Macfarlanes

The following Wills & Probate practice note produced in partnership with Jenny Bird and Charlotte Kynaston of Macfarlanes provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Intermeddling in an estate
  • What is intermeddling?
  • What constitutes intermeddling?
  • What are the consequences of intermeddling?
  • Renunciation of probate is invalid
  • Liability to creditors and legatees
  • Liability to the lawful personal representative
  • Liability to inheritance tax
  • Constructive trust
  • Criminal sanctions
  • More...

Intermeddling in an estate

What is intermeddling?

An individual who performs certain duties which a personal representative (PR) would perform to administer a deceased’s estate intermeddles in the estate. By performing these duties, the individual holds themselves out to be a PR and is deemed to have accepted the role as PR. This is the case even if the individual is not entitled to be a PR or does not wish to be a PR of the deceased’s estate.

An individual who intermeddles in an estate is liable as an executor de son tort (broadly translated, an executor by their own wrongdoing). The concept derives from the general principle that if someone without authority acts as if they have authority, they should be held accountable as if they had that authority. On a practical level, the concept prevents individuals from administering an estate without taking out a grant of representation and thereby escaping all liability for their actions.

What constitutes intermeddling?

Section 28 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (AEA 1925) provides that an individual intermeddles (and is, therefore, generally an executor de son tort) when they:

  1. obtain, receive or hold the deceased’s assets without full consideration, or

  2. release any debt or liability due to the deceased’s estate

There are a number of cases which consider whether particular actions constitute intermeddling within the meaning of AEA 1925, s 28.

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