We take you through the process of making changes to your estate’s executor
Sometimes, a person originally appointed to execute a will simply isn’t up to the job. We discuss your options when it comes to making changes to the appointed estate administrator.
What Is An Executor?
Also known as an estate administrator, an executor is the person responsible for managing and administering a will. It’s a role that carries weighty responsibilities, and therefore it is crucial that the appointed person be able to undertake all the duties required of them, in accordance with Hong Kong’s laws.
Occasionally, the appointed executor may not be either willing or able to correctly perform their duties, making them unfit to continue as administrator. But what can be done under these circumstances to ensure that the executor is removed, and a more suitable replacement is appointed instated?
Prior to Grant Of Probate
If grant of probate, or letters of administration, are yet to be issued by the High Court’s Probate Registry, there are three possible means to remove an appointed executor:
A caveat prevents a grant of probate from being issued by the Probate Registry without notifying the caveator (the person who applies for the caveat). This order remains in force for six months at a time and can be repeatedly renewed.
Renunciation Of Right To Probate
This option involves the executor voluntarily renouncing their responsibilities and as such, is instigated by them. While, theoretically, a court can retract a renunciation, in practice this is very rare and done so in exceptional cases (such as when probate had been granted to someone else). Therefore, the executor would typically either state their intention orally during any probate action, or else submit the relevant form (Renunciation of Probate) to the Probate Registry.
Applicable after a caveat has been issued, citations can be helpful in speeding up the process of estate administration. Citations can apply in the following situations:
- Where the executor has not taken action to obtain a grant of probate, the citor becomes entitled to apply for a grant themselves
- A citation to propound a will can be issued by anyone who has opposing interest in a will
Of course, this process depends on the specific circumstances of the estate, and so it is advisable to obtain guidance from a lawyer before proceeding with citation.
After Grant Of Probate
If an executor has already taken out probate but then is unwilling to continue with the estate’s administration, there are also options to manage this situation.
- Inventory And Account
At any time, the court can post issue of grant of probate, and compel an executor to produce detailed accounts and inventory of the deceased’s estate. Once these details are made available, any beneficiaries can examine them, and choose to take further action – including the replacement of the executor.
- Removal of the Executor
Under specific circumstances set out in law, an executor can be removed if the court deems this the most appropriate course of action, and in the interests of “persons beneficially entitled”. In this situation, the court may also have the power to appoint a new executor. If this is the case, the court will consider the necessity and convenience of each case.
The removal of an executor is a complex and often fraught process that is best handled by professionals.