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Executor Sacrificing Family Home

Is Joint-Executor Bound by the Maverick Action of his Co-Executor?

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Cain and Abel are named as joint-executors in their widower father Adam's will. Both are also beneficiaries. Shortly after Adam's death, before probate, Cain unilaterally appoints an estate agent to market Adam's home at a knock-down price once probate is granted, without consulting his fellow-executor Abel. 

Question: Does the panel believe Abel (or, perhaps more accurately, their late father's estate) will be bound to the contract his brother Cain has agreed with the estate agents (in the same way one might be bound to a business partner's or co-director's agreements)? Or are both executors' signatures necessary for the agents to be able to enforce the contract?  

There are no trusts involved, and the estate exceeds the IHT thresholds. One for those with practical IHT/estate experience, I guess; or a working knowledge of contract law.

Replies (68)

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By thomas34
13th Feb 2018 11:03

You don't say what the terms of the will were as regards divvying up the estate but on the basis that the property was left jointly to both Cain and Abel I would have thought that any sale would depend upon Abel's signature. As far as the contract between Cain and the estate agent is concerned Abel is either agreeable to a knock down price or not. What Abel thinks is a knock down price may not actually be so and reference to two or three agents should establish that. Abel can get valuations from other agents and make clear to Cain that he won't be signing contracts for exchange until he's happy with the deal.

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Replying to thomas34:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
13th Feb 2018 11:32

Thanks Thomas, the estate (including the property) was left equally to Cain, Abel, and a third (non-executor) brother Seth.

Abel is vehemently opposed to the knock-down price, but is aware that both executors' signatures will be required for exchange of contracts and has every intention of vetoing that. However, he is concerned that his late father's estate will be contractually liable for the estate agent's £5k+ fees for "finding" a buyer willing to pay the knock-down price (a number of developers having already been lined up).

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
13th Feb 2018 11:11

one for a solicitor if they have fallen out.

If they haven't fallen out, then get further valuations. if you need a low one - get a surveyor not an estate agent.

People often remember the family home as it was, not how it is now. Eg lovely family home vs a grotty mess of dilapidation.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
13th Feb 2018 11:47

Thanks, Ireallyshould.

Well thankfully they're not at the stage where one might smite the other. It's just that one wants a knock it out quick and cheap sale, and the other is prepared to wait for somewhere nearer its market price. The estate agent that Cain signed up with is also a chartered surveyor, who was paid separately for the probate valuation but then did a sales job on Cain alone.

The sale at knock-down price is unlikely to happen, so my question boils down to whether the estate agent can enforce his contract for selling fees with just one joint-executor's signature?

The house itself is in good condition, btw, decluttering aside.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
13th Feb 2018 11:59

I am not a lawyer so dont know about the contract side of things, but it seems unlikely to be enforceable on the estate. Its also an odd contract at a fixed fee with or without completion for an estate agent.

From a pragmatic client management point of view, can the one desperate for the cash be given an advance out of other more liquid assets of the estate? Looks like Cain needs cash quickly and Able doesn't. If Cain has big debt, or ist just a spendthrift it may explain the behaviour.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
13th Feb 2018 13:24

Thanks, I've had some experience (but many years ago) of preparing estate agents' accounts and generally their contracts used to state that if a buyer willing and able to proceed at £xxx,xxx purchase price is found by them then the fees are owed. So, for example, if a seller changed his mind after a buyer was found, eg by deciding to stay put and withdrawing the property from the market, then the seller would still be liable for the selling fees. Some contracts, I remember, also tied the sellers down to a minimum period of £x months' marketing duration (in which circumstance a prospective buyer always seemed to be found at the eleventh hour).

So it seeems to me to boil down to a question of the capacity of Cain to enter into a selling agreement with the estate agent without the agreement / signature of his brother Abel. Other documents, bank accounts and financial-related, appear by and large to need both signatories.

Regarding behaviour, both brothers are financially sound, although I suspect there may be something of a so-far unexplained financial black-hole; so I guess you're on the right lines about that.

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Bramble
By Chris.Mann
13th Feb 2018 11:53

Why, oh why, do these "events" always bring out the worst side of human nature?

Lack of communication is usually at the centre of it all. And, bloody mindedness!

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By andy.partridge
13th Feb 2018 12:22

What does the estate agent's contract say? In my experience you are pretty much free to take the property off the market if it suits you and you are not obliged to accept the offer of a predetermined price, unless it's a sale by auction.

That said, I can understand that if you totally waste someone's time they can get upset, so my advice would be to inform the estate agent that this can't go anywhere. They wouldn't want to waste any more time or look incompetent to their viewers.

Their ought to be some due diligence on the part of the agent to check that their client has authority to sell, but in practice I believe the checks are 'light touch'.

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Replying to andy.partridge:
Bramble
By Chris.Mann
13th Feb 2018 12:51

"They wouldn't want to waste any more time or look incompetent to their viewers".

Perish the thought that an estate agent could ever look incompetent!

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Replying to andy.partridge:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
13th Feb 2018 13:36

Hi Andy, I've not had sight of the agreement with the estate agent, but I'm mindful that they generally state that once a buyer is found at the agreed price then the selling fees become due, even if the seller changes his mind and decides not to proceed with the sale. One of the sharky estate agents I acted for years ago would go to court under such circumstances, and once even took me along to provide financial evidence.

The problem is there is no shortage of prospective buyers on a house with vacant possession at three quarters of Rightmove's Recent Sale History Prices (which I believe are linked to the Land Registry). So, for me, it all boils down to the capacity of Cain to enter into the agreement without the consent / signature of his co-executor. I guess that'll decide whether the agent can enforce the agreement.

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
13th Feb 2018 12:57

Does the executor not generally have personal liability for all contracts they enter into on behalf of the executry?

Accordingly if a contract has been entered into with the Estate Agent, and a sum is due, and if the executors, as a body, cannot agree to reimburse the single executor (he did not have permission to enter into contract) then he ,as an individual, is going to be out of pocket.

"Contractual Liabilities
As an executor you may need to enter into contracts with third parties such as estate agents. When you sign these contracts you are personally liable under contract law. If things go wrong you might be able to recover costs from the estate provided you can demonstrate that you have acted reasonably and there are sufficient funds in the estate to reimburse you. "

https://www.furleypage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Furley-Page-Exec...

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Replying to DJKL:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
13th Feb 2018 13:53

Bazinga! Thank you DJKL. So Cain should be personally liable for any estate agent's fees, because there's no way his maverick actions come anywhere near reasonable ("It's a done deal").

So Cain needs to repudiate that agreement ASAP, and set a more realistic price with his co-executor Abel. I will be advising them not to enter into any further agreements with estae agents until such time as probate is granted.

I particularly like the firm on your link being based in Canterbury, Chatham, Whitstable and London (and not Edinburgh!). Thank you so much.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
13th Feb 2018 14:14

Did not think a reference from Scotland would be much use to you.

Google search

"can a single executor enter into a contract on behalf of an executry"

brought up the result.

There are a few other articles that come up which may reinforce argument as I am to a degree merely presuming the linked article is the final word re the subject.

Does seem to me that a solicitor ought to be involved to guide the process.

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By bernard michael
13th Feb 2018 14:11

If Cain is acting ulta vires his appointment ( which he appears to be doing) the liability for any contracts he enters in to that are not approved will rest with him
BUT
Talk to a solicitor

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
13th Feb 2018 14:28

Thanks DJKL and Bernard. Duly noted, and solicitor will be contacted.

I'm aware the link is part of a sales brochure, and may not be the definitive word, but for the time being I have something to wave at Cain that should make him rethink his actions. Hopefully he'll extract himself from the agreement before the estate agent produces one of his pals as a prospective purchaser.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
Bramble
By Chris.Mann
13th Feb 2018 15:05

"before the estate agent produces one of his pals as a prospective purchaser".

As I suggested earlier ..............................perish the thought!

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Replying to Chris.Mann:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
13th Feb 2018 18:53

Hi Chris. Mrs I'msorry used to manage an estate agents / building society sub-branch many moons ago, so yours truly is well versed in their practices. Their standard ploys ranged from favouring offers from purchasers electing to take their mortgage through said building society, to arranging viewings for a pool of tyre-kickers who could be relied upon to make offers for almost every property they viewed only to withdraw them later on (which would set the reserve price and thereby help create a sellers' market).

Marketing properties to close an estate at bottom book price was commonplace, often to developer pals of the firm's partners.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
Bramble
By Chris.Mann
13th Feb 2018 20:25

When we were selling our last property, just over 18 months ago, our estate agent, at the time, managed to have a “discussion” with one of our neighbours, about our parking rights! It was strange that he questioned why we cancelled our arrangement with him, shortly afterwards and couldn’t understand why I no longer trusted him! Yes, there are and will be a good number of respectful estate agents. For some reason, I seem to attract most of the detritus, from all walks of life? At least it provides me with entertaining anecdotes!

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Replying to Chris.Mann:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 09:29

I too seem to be a magnet for the hoi polloi. Unfortunately for them, I'm not as daft as I look

We once turned up at an early evening viewing at a house in Sully (the Welsh village where Gavin and Stacey filmed its Billericay scenes) only to find ourselves part of a guided tour party comprised of the estate agent, the owners, and another couple who were also viewing the property at the same time as us. Just before we left, a second couple knocked the door for their appointed viewing.

The house had been on the market a while, and after we'd departed Mrs I'msorry - who has an estate agency background - smelt a rat. So we turned the car round, headed back, and parked up. The agent had already left, and before our very eyes all four of the other "prospects" exited the property and walked back to their.... homes! They were all neighbours, masquerading as prospective buyers (in an attempt to panic us into making an offer!).

The odd thing was we liked the house and would have made an offer had the agent and the vendors not made themselves impossible to deal with. We did make a series of derisory offers, just for the fun of hearing the agent lying her head off about how one of the other couples who viewed the same time as us had already offered more than that etc etc. Terrific Sport!

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By TaxAngel
14th Feb 2018 09:42

If there are joint executors, my understanding is that both executors will need to sign the contract for sale of the property so it cannot be sold without both agreeing. As regards the contract between the agent and the executors, I believe the same should apply and therefore there cannot be a valid contract with only one executor signing. However I am not a solicitor so you should check with a solicitor and the agent involved.

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Replying to TaxAngel:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
14th Feb 2018 10:02

Agree re first part, not sure about second part, that appears somewhat unfair on everyone who might ever deal with the executry.

How are they all to know who all the executors are when considering entering into a contact?

The undertaker, chap who cuts the grass of deceased's house whilst it awaits sale, builders tidying it pre sale, it would be a pretty onerous responsibility for all of these to ascertain who the executors are (remembering that the will may/may not list them, some may have predeceased some declined) before contracting with same.

I think the point that the individual executor has personal liability re such contracts is likely correct as it makes sense from a practical perspective.

If it did not you would have dodgy executors across the UK having Great Uncle Ralph's old house nicely tidied up by Bob the Builder who will then get told that as only one executor contracted with him he can go whistle for his money- the personal liability of the individual executor gives poor Bob some protection.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 10:38

Hi DJKL, You've put the flesh on the bones rather nicely with your examples, and they all accord rather well with your link earlier. Plus there's the other side of the coin in that the estate might be liable if one executor acts "reasonably" (say in appointing an undertaker, florist, chap who cuts the grass, jobbing builder etc).

Your post has highlighted another potential can of worms, in that the maverick executor Cain was appointed by the original will, and his brother Abel was appointed later by a separate document, a codicil to the will. I mentioned earlier there's a suspected black hole in the finances, and I'm sure you can work out the possibilities. The plot thickens!

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Replying to TaxAngel:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 10:19

Thanks Tax Angel, I too suspect both signatures would be needed for exchange of contracts, but it's good to receive your affirmation; and, of course, there's an extra safety valve because, prior to any such exchange of contracts, probate will certainly need both signatures.

It's the contract with the estate agent that's the bother. I suspect that, in practice, most estate agents would not insist on obtaining each and every executor's signature to their marketing contract. But what might a court say? Is that marketing contract enforceable by the agent upon the estate (in the same way as one might be bound by a business partner's signature), or just upon the maverick executor? DJKL's link to a solicitor's brochure indicates the latter may be the strict case, but I am contacting the solicitor who drew up the will to alert him and hopefully draw upon his interpretation.

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By bernard michael
14th Feb 2018 10:47

The executors are those that exist in the latest will documents at the date of death unless removed by the Courts. It doesn't matter therefore that Abel was appointed after Cain provided it was before death.
Is there some form of plot to reduce the probate value/IHT by selling at a lower price with perhaps cash changing hands.
What is difference between the real market price and the agent's value ?

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 11:20

Thanks Bernard,
I hear what you say, that both executors hold equal ranking, but in the light of this newly introduced information was thinking aloud of the possibility that a rogue executor might present the will but not the codicil to an estate agent (or, come to that, to a financial institution. There's a quarter of a million in investments).

No plot, in fact precious little collaboration whatsover between these two brothers (which I suppose must be why I named them as I did). House will be sold on the open market, with Cain wanting a quick sale at knockdown price, and Abel the opposite. Cain's knock down price is three quarters of the Rightmove historic prices for similar properties on that estate. The house is in good condition and IMHO (well, Mrs I'msorry's opinion actually) would fetch a good deal more.

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By bassanclan
14th Feb 2018 11:15

Although the estate agent was appointed before probate was granted Cain and Abel may have already started filling in the forms. Whereby Cain thought he had th power to act

On the probate form Cain and Abel will have decided whether to act jointly, jointly and severally or maybe even Cain to act, with Abel having reserved powers.

It may be that Cain was living near to the late Adam and Abel unwittingly felt it would be easier if Cain could go and close bank accounts etc without having to go with him, so allowed "severally" or "reserved powers"

If none of this applies then Cain would liable for the estate agent fees, as he entered into a contract to sell property which he did not own (at that time)

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Replying to bassanclan:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 11:47

Thank you so much bassanclan, that's really is priceless because Abel's response is that he has seen no probate forms yet.

Abel alone "froze" the major bank account as he happened to use the same bank as his late father Adam, and was conscious that Mrs Cain had continued to use Adam's plastic for various incidental "expenses". Meanwhile, Cain has taken it upon himself to collect death certificates and copies of the will (including, one hopes, the codicil) for distribution to the various financial institutions which form a large part of the estate.

Both Cain and Abel live a considerable distance from their late father Adam, an hour or two each, although what you've said about that in your post has prompted the disclosure that Cain was first to the paperwork (£000,000s of shares, bonds, and other investments) having commandeered those whilst Adam was still alive and in hospital.

I'll discuss jointly and severally with the family solicitor - no doubt the default would be to act jointly, and I'd like to ascertain whether express written permission is necessary to vary that. I have a feeling the estate agents' fees may be the tip of the iceberg.

Thank you so much!

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By Michael C Feltham
14th Feb 2018 11:30

I now have significant knowledge of probate law; didn't want to but was forced by nasty devious venal grabbing relatives!

1. An Executor, can either accept his/her position or refuse:

2. Once they accept or start taking any action/s connected with the estate, then are a de facto executor.

3. Executors at law, are effectively public trustees and are duty bound to seek a grant of probate (When a will exists) or Letters of Administration if the Testator/Testatrix dies intestate (i.e.leaves no valid will):

4. It is a SERIOUS criminal offence to commence any disposal of major assets, before the executors possess a grant of probate! Unless some extreme financial emergency compels funds raising for the whole benefit of the estate: e.g. repossession of property threatened. However such action would have to be agreed by all executors and backed up by significant proof of necessity.

5. With very small estates, under IHT limit, it is not compulsory to obtain a grant of probate: in your case it is:

6. The Executor acting unilaterally, is solely liable for any fees, costs etc incurred as a result of his/her ultra vires action.

7. Personally, rather than incur solicitor's costs I would:

i. Write to the Probate Office and HMRC; and,

ii. Make a formal complaint over a crime to your local CID.

An Executor's duties are onerous and unforgiving.

Hope this helps.

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Replying to Michael C Feltham:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 14:38

Many thanks Michael, and whilst I'm sorry to hear you have such rotten relatives I'm extremely grateful for the benefit of your experience.

May I ask for your thoughts on the interaction beetween items 4 and 5 on your list? Let's suppose the estate were to fall below the IHT threshold (rationale: there's an additional £100k allowance available, the house having been left to the sons; plus I'm mindful that the mother Eve died a couple of years earlier which means there could be anything up to say £300k unused allowance transferable to Adam). So potentially a maximum £725k threshold for Adam, which would exceed the anticipated value of his (£600k-ish) estate. In which circumstance of a raised exemption threshold would I be correct in assuming that item 5 on your list would still apply, ie that there would be no need to obtain a grant of probate?

LATE EDIT: BY "SMALL ESTATE"(PER ITEM 5 ON YOUR LIST, THOSE ESTATES NOT REQUIRING A GRANT OF PROBATE) DO YOU MEAN ESTATES UNDER £10K? OR ESTATES BELOW THE IHT THRESHOLD ?

Secondary question, if I may: suppose there is no need to obtain a grant of probate as per the above circumstance, what's your take on how item 4 on your list might then apply? ie Would executors acting jointly and collaboratively be legally permitted to dispose of investments immediately? Or must they still prove necessity? (I'm ignoring for now the possibility that in my case one maverick executor may have unilaterally commenced selling investments, as that's remains a suspicion at this stage).

Thank you so much, and I'm sure you'll draw some comfort from knowing that someone else's nasty devious venal grabbing relative may be in for it!

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Michael C Feltham
14th Feb 2018 14:21

Think of a normal tax return.

The total taxable amount is first declared; and the allowances claimed thereafter. If no tax is dues then no tax is demanded: however, the taxpayer (In this case the estate) must prove why and how no tax is due.

It is no different from an IHT return.

Indeed, with an estate value (Gross) of £600K ish, then HMRC will automatically send an Inheritance Tax Return, as they are notified by the Probate Office.

Yes: once the gross value of any estate exceeds £15,000, then it is a statutory demand that probate be applied for.

The Probate Process is quite rigorous and inflexible: it is in place to try and ensure no chicanery occurs and that any taxes due are settled.

If neither of the named executors is willing to serve, then The Public Trustee's Office (From memory) takes over. Rather like the Official Receiver.

The Bona Vacantia process is where someone dies without leaving a will and the Public Trustee tries to find a relative and publishes lists of "Vacant Estates"; agencies scour the lists and then try and find a relative, sign 'em up and take a hefty commission.

If no relative - no matter how distant - can be find, then the estate devolves in the Crown.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/bona-vacantia

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Replying to Michael C Feltham:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 15:00

Michael C Feltham wrote:

Yes: once the gross value of any estate exceeds £15,000, then it is a statutory demand that probate be applied for.

The Probate Process is quite rigorous and inflexible: it is in place to try and ensure no chicanery occurs and that any taxes due are settled.

Many Thanks, Michael. I'd misread "small estates" to mean those below the IHT threshold, but thank you for a clear answer to that: If I've understood you correctly, probate is a must in this case because the estate exceeds £15k (I'd researched £10k from somewhere, but that's of no consequence) and is therefore not classed as a "small estate".

And you've already flagged on your earlier list, it's a SERIOUS offence if Cain has been flogging off the investments prior to probate. (It appears Cain has transferred the balance from the smaller bank account to a specially set up bank account of his own - around £2k - when closing down that account. Makes access difficult to know what else might be in Cain's account. I think a joint bank account requiring both executors' signatures is called for).

Great post too; lots of good background info.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
By Lawskills
14th Feb 2018 15:22

I don't know where this quote came from but the Small Payments regulations (out of date but still the law from 1965) say you don't need a grant to recover accounts worth £5,000 or less. There is no limit though on how many such accounts you have although they are basically government funds such as treasury stock or local government bonds.
However, there are many estates worth more than this (and indeed more than £15,000) where no grant is required e.g. where assets pass by survivorship to a spouse; where there is no real property in the estate and the estate is below the excepted estates limit (which can be as much as £325,000). Most banks in England & Wales will hand over money on a death certificate to a person who claims to be the PR or beneficiary for sums in the order of £30,000 (it is at their commercial risk).
Please can you identify where the £15,000 limit originates?

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Replying to Lawskills:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 20:58

Lawskills wrote:

Please can you identify where the £15,000 limit originates? I don't know where this quote came from...

Hi Laswskills, thank you so much for your continued patience and indulgence. I'll have a bash at fielding that question for Michael, if I may. Yours truly was led well and truly astray by the outline instructions at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/applying-probate which inform Pat Public that "You may not need a grant if the deceased... [inter alia] left less than £10,000". I know, I know: it has Northern Ireland in the URL. But I can see why Michael might have come up with a similar £15,000 version of that same cornerstone of wisdom. Indulge me, if you would, by treating that as a moot point for the time being. Maybe N.I. transmits a more in-depth interpretation than England's populace receives (and you'd be excused for thinking the guidance might just apply here in God's country, given our present Theresa May / NI coalition government).

Lawskills wrote:
...but the Small Payments regulations (out of date but still the law from 1965) say you don't need a grant to recover accounts worth £5,000 or less. There is no limit though on how many such accounts you have although they are basically government funds such as treasury stock or local government bonds.
However, there are many estates worth more than this (and indeed more than £15,000) where no grant is required e.g. where assets pass by survivorship to a spouse; where there is no real property in the estate and the estate is below the excepted estates limit (which can be as much as £325,000).

Ahha, so the Small Payment Regulations (urghhh - they had back-door tabling motions all the way back in 1965? Is that particular regulation a spin-off of CGT's inception, I wonder?) might just account for why a £2k bank account was closed without question (and, for that matter, its funds transferred to Cain's "holding" account). As for the remainder of the exceptions you have mentioned: in this particular case the deceased was a widower; the real property is a bricks and mortar house in which the deceased lived for some 50 years (value £150k to £210k, depending upon whose valuation you choose to believe); and MOST IMPORANTLY, although the total value of the estate might fall below the excepted estates limit that would be because it has been raised by (i) the £100k uplift for PR property left to sons; and (ii) the unutilsed IHT relief from predeceased wife Eve's estate, which could be as much as £300k. So the key question, I guess, is whether the excepted estates limit might apply in this (£600kish) case. (You've stated that could be as much as £325k, but do you believe that 325k figure might be augmented/uplifted by the additional allowances stated? Might that extend to £600k+ of excepted estate limit ?)

Lawskills wrote:
Most banks in England & Wales will hand over money on a death certificate to a person who claims to be the PR or beneficiary for sums in the order of £30,000 (it is at their commercial risk).

Ouch! That's worrying, as Cain has already done the rounds distributing death certificates. And would explain why he is spending cash freestyle, way in excess of the £2k bank account that we already know was closed and transferred to his ahhem holding account (in his sole name, a left-over from his having closed another [non-related] estate).

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Michael C Feltham
14th Feb 2018 17:48

"And you've already flagged on your earlier list, it's a SERIOUS offence if Cain has been flogging off the investments prior to probate. (It appears Cain has transferred the balance from the smaller bank account to a specially set up bank account of his own - around £2k - when closing down that account. Makes access difficult to know what else might be in Cain's account. I think a joint bank account requiring both executors' signatures is called for)."

Very naughty!

How did he obtain access to the bank account?

When a person dies then the bank ought to be immediately notified: the bank then freezes the account an will only un-freeze it on production of a grant of probate or letters of administration.

In this case it seems the bank have compounded a fraud!

I used to have a trust account wherein I retained client's and estate's monies.

This is the correct approach.

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By richard.snape
14th Feb 2018 11:52

I'm no expert, but it seems to me that if the estate agent (who you mention is also a surveyor) has grossly undervalued the property then he has failed in his professional duty to his client and as has been suggested by others could even be acting fraudulently by getting a kickback from a friendly buyer.
These factors might be mentioned along with possible complaints to professional bodies when attempting to withdraw from an unsatisfactory contract with the agent.

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Replying to richard.snape:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 13:48

Hi Richard,
Well I haven't yet had sight of the probate valuation, just Cain's woolly and unreliable grapevine figure, so I'll reserve judgement on that. I expect it'll fall somewhere between Cain's quick sale / knockdown price and the Rightmove top book price.
But you raise an interesting point, that if the probate valuation is way too low it might not only have implications on the overall IHT position but might also let Caine off the hook for any marketing contract he might have entered into with the agent.

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By Balancing
14th Feb 2018 11:58

I am sorry that i am not answering your question per se but I do not expect that I am on my own in considering that executors can consider Wills and Estates can be an open till / open to abuse. Please sign my petition and pass onto anyone else that may be interested/affected https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/209912

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Replying to Balancing:
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By Michael C Feltham
14th Feb 2018 12:48

Core problem is that the Wills Act dates back to 1837!

The only meaningful revision has been The Families Act.

You are correct: what is called Contentious Probate is a gravy train for solicitors and barristers.

Outcomes are mainly based upon case law.

And adversarial argument.

And the depths of the wallets of those who seek to challenge last wills and testaments: mainly, from "Lack of capacity": i.e. the testator/testatrix was ga ga and incapable of rational disposition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probate#England_and_Wales

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By bernard michael
14th Feb 2018 13:27

Most important that Abel contacts the estate agent ASAP and tells him that he will not sign any sale documents. That should stop the problem in it's tracks but probably start an inter sibling war

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 15:08

bernard michael wrote:

That should stop the problem in it's tracks but probably start an inter sibling war

Just like the real Cain and Abel! We'll see.

I'd almost forgotten about the original problem with the estate agent's fees, but thanks Bernard, will do. It'll be interesting to see whether the estate agent / banks / financial institutions have been furnished with a copy of the will (naming Cain as executor) or the will and its codicil (the latter appointed Abel as joint-executor).

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By bernard michael
14th Feb 2018 13:55

But what about the beneficiaries who lose out

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By Lawskills
14th Feb 2018 14:04

An executor's authority to act stems from the Will and is confirmed by the Grant of Probate. It would be unwise of a contractor to contract with only one executor before a Grant is issued confirming they are solely appointed. Executors are appointed jointly and have to act unanimously so one cannot bind the other. Entering into a contract which was not approved by a co-executor leaves the contracting executor unable to be re-imbursed for fees incurred unilaterally by him from the estate. It may be the case that the estate agent seeks to enforce his contract with the contracting executor but he jumped the gun I would suggest unless he had proof that the contracting executor was solely authorised to enter into a contract with him.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 15:14

Thank you Lawskills, that's very useful coming from you.

It'll be interesting to see whether the estate agent has been provided with a copy of the will (naming Cain as executor) AND its codicil (the latter named Abel as joint-executor). I'm wondering how else Cain managed to tip £2k from a smaller bank account into an account set up in his own name without Abel's signature?

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By bernard michael
14th Feb 2018 15:20

You haven't explained what Abel is doing about the situation, which is starting to sound like fraud. Can you enlighten us
Also
What trade or profession are Cain & Abel

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 15:16

bernard michael wrote:

You haven't explained what Abel is doing about the situation, which is starting to sound like fraud. Can you enlighten us


Certainly can Bernard, he's coming to the pub for a beer. Lunch everyone!
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Replying to bernard michael:
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By Tax Dragon
14th Feb 2018 18:19

And it came to pass that Abel filed the world's first suspicious activity report (but those scrolls are still locked in a vault somewhere).

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 21:21

Heh heh! Gratified you picked up on the Genesis connotation. Whoever said pathos was a dying genre?

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By Justin Bryant
14th Feb 2018 15:51

PRs are generally treated as a single person, so the act of one PR is binding on the PRs as a whole. However, there are exceptions to this where they must act together:

A transfer or conveyance (as defined by section 55(1)(ii) of Administration of Estates Act 1925).

A contract for either a transfer or conveyance of property made from 1994 (Section 2(2), AEA 1925).

Consequently, where there is to be a sale of the deceased's freehold property, for example, the PRs must make the transfer jointly.

The PRs named in the grant have authority to administer the deceased's estate (where the PR is an executor, the grant confirms his authority and where he is an administrator, the grant confers authority on him). If a would-be PR acts before grant re a prospective property sale (that he intends to sell on his own without the other PRs) he has no authority thereto and so is basically acting outside the estate and the estate is not bound by his acts and he is personally liable for them.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
14th Feb 2018 22:08

Hi Justin, that's an interesting and most valuable perspective. I too suspected their might just be a similar aspect to this PR situation similar to where a partner might bind his fellow business partners to a deal. And I've taken on board your (real-estate) property-related exception to your general single person rule. I have a creeping feeeling that in practice (ie real-world outside of us lot) your take-on-matters that the act of one PR might just bind the other could prevail. Just like a partnership, or when a single director might bind his company

It seems the potential estate agent's fees that featured in the orignal question have been superceded by the blitzkreig assault of the more vigorous protagonist, Cain, upon the estate's various £000,000s of financial investments. The present state of play seems to revolve around the following issue with Lawskills which, due to the restrictions of Aweb's software, took place only slightly earlier although an awfully lot higher in this thread:

So the key question, I guess, is whether the excepted estates limit might apply in this (£600kish) case. (You've stated that could be as much as £325k, but do you believe that 325k figure might be augmented/uplifted by the additional allowances stated? Might that extend to £600k+ of excepted estate limit ?)

Put simply, does Cain's maverick behaviour (far worse than appointing estate agents - potentially flogging investments without Abel's consent or knowledge) contravene the law? Based upon our collective thread-knowledge so far, the answer appears to hinge upon whether or not the estae falls within the boundaries of an excepted estate: if so, then Cain (if I understand correctly) has carte blanche; if not, he might be committing SERIOUS infringements.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Justin Bryant
15th Feb 2018 10:09

In short, the rogue executor has no more authority to sell the estate's house than I have to sell your house and so the consequences of any attempt to do so are the same i.e. personal liability only for the unauthorised person and no liability for the estate or you. There are exceptions for bona fide purchasers for value without notice but they obviously do not apply here.

BTW, I am not sure why this pure legal question is on this site in the 1st place.

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