An executor’s year refers to the period of time within which an executor is expected to complete administration of a deceased estate or be in a position to distribute the estate.
The period has been held by Courts to be one year from the death of the Will maker. If legacies have not been paid within the executor year, interest is payable from the end of this 12 month period until date of payment at a rate of interest fixed either by legislation or the Court.
Whilst this principle applies, in practice, it depends upon what is reasonable in the circumstances.
Kate Stephens died in August 1983, her will, split her property into three parts, leaving one part to each of her three children. She appointed two of her children executors of the will, the daughter didn’t want to act as executor so the Son was granted probate in November 1984, some 15 months after the mother’s death.
The principal asset in the estate was a house sold in January 1985.
The son and daughter argued over a cream jug he reckoned she had taken without authority; the daughter required full details of his administration. In June 1985, she signed a receipt for one sterling cream jug and one silver sugar basin, and wrote,
“I now require that within seven days you as executor provide me with an accounting in writing in respect to the estate.”
This did not happen; and in August 1985, the daughter issued a summons requiring her brother to prepare and file accounts and complete the administration of the estate. On 17 September, the son’s solicitors wrote to his sister giving an informal outline as to what had happened in the estate, containing full accounts together with a distribution of the major part of the estate. This did not satisfy the daughter who continued to press for an account.
In December 1985 the Court ordered that proper accounts be filed because in any event the daughter was entitled to an account and hoped that such an order might end the matter. In fact although hostilities had ended, the parties sought a decision of the Court to resolve the question of costs.
The three duties of an executor are to keep, deliver, and to vouch accounts so as to be able to report to beneficiaries within a reasonable time showing what has been received and paid. In the absence of very strong reasons to the contrary, if they doggedly refuses to do so he will be ordered to pay costs.
In the present matter the Court was troubled that the daughter’s request for accounting came very soon after the grant of probate, as the executor normally has a year to administer the estate, file accounts and make distributions without penalty. However, it did seem extraordinary that with a relatively small estate, with one main asset which had been sold and the purchase moneys taken in in January 1985, that it took another seven months for the main distribution to be made.
The Court found that the executor should have acted far more quickly than he did to answer his sister’s requests properly and wind up the estate as soon as was reasonably practicable. However, some of the sister’s demands went beyond what she was entitled to. The Court ordered costs to be paid from the estate.