When appointing executors, it is crucial to ensure that the appointed individuals are appropriate for the position. In situations where family members do not have a good relationship, it may be wise to consider an independent executor to avoid complications and cost consequences later.
The case of Hudman v Morris  highlights why this is important and serves as an example of a case when executors can face actions when focusing on trivial issues and fail to see the bigger picture.
Barry Leonard Morris died on the 2nd of February 2019, aged 91, leaving his estate to his five children equally. The Will appointed Barry's estranged son, Alan and his daughter Sharon as the estate's executors.
Before Barry's death in 2014, it came to light that Barry was due an inheritance from his brother's estate in Australia amounting to approximately £300,000.00. However, due to poor health, he was unable to travel and therefore requested that his son, Roger travels to Australia and assist with the administration of his brother's estate.
Roger agreed to the request and, sometime in August 2014; Roger travelled to Australia for two weeks, during which he incurred travel expenses in the sum of £2,836.48.
In 2016, Barry executed a Lasting Power of Attorney relating to his property and affairs in which he appointed his estranged son, Alan as the attorney, unknown to the other siblings. Roger discovered this at a later date. As a result, he made an application to the Court of Protection to revoke the LPA and appoint a professional deputy to assist Barry in respect of his financial affairs.
Following a costly proceeding, Roger was successful as the Court of Protection ruled to revoke the LPA and appoint a professional deputy to assist Barry accordingly. The Court also ruled that Roger was to be reimbursed for his travel expenses to Australia. Unfortunately, before any reimbursements took place, Barry died.
Following Barry's death, his estranged son Alan and his daughter Sharon were appointed as executors of Barry's estate. As one can imagine, following lengthy litigation with Roger, Alan (now in control of Barry's assets) firmly opposed the reimbursements due to Roger. This resulted in a disagreement between the siblings, and it was decided that the best course of action would be to apply to remove Alan as an executor. Proceedings were brought by Sharon, who was also the executor of the estate.
Having assessed matters, the Court ruled that His conduct towards his siblings compromised Alan's position as the executor. Therefore, he was not in a position to be able to act as the executor and properly administer his father's estate.
The Court further decided that the breakdown of the relationship between both executors, the siblings, Alan and Sharon, meant that the administration of the estate would be under threat. Therefore, the Court decided that both executors were to be removed and replaced by an independent personal representative who would take over the administration of the deceased, Barry Morris' estate.
In his judgement, Master Clark criticised the costs incurred due to various court proceedings that had ultimately reduced the value of the net estate by approximately £200,000.00. Alan's position was described as "wrong and unreasonable", bearing in mind reimbursement of Roger's expenses would have only reduced his inheritance by approximately £500.00; however, his actions have now resulted in a considerable reduction in the net assets and, therefore, the beneficiaries individual share of the estate.
By doing so, Alan had failed to act "fairly and conscientiously" and impartially in the interest of the beneficiaries.
It is clear from the judgement in this matter that to avoid complexity and unnecessary costs, the parties should act wisely in assessing the executor’s suitability. Executors should also act properly and efficiently in administering the estate rather than focusing on trivial disagreements. This is extremely relevant when family members have complex relationships.