Woman’s Executor Jailed after Her £240,000 Estate Is ‘Frittered Away’

Appointment as executor of a friend or loved one’s estate is an honour, but also carries heavy legal responsibilities. In one case that proved the point, a man who failed in his duty to distribute a woman’s £240,000 estate in accordance with her wishes was jailed for contempt of court.

By her will, the woman, who died in her 70s, split her estate equally between two friends. She appointed the man, who was the partner of one of them and had no legal qualifications, as her executor. Following the sale of her home, by far her biggest asset, the money was paid into his bank account.

Thereafter, all but about £10,000 of the money had been withdrawn or spent on paying off debts, daily living expenses and purchasing cars for the man and his partner. The other beneficiary had not received a penny of her inheritance and, after she complained, the man was replaced as executor by a judge.

He failed to comply with court orders requiring him to disclose bank records and other documents, or to pay the money due to the other beneficiary. In jailing him for six months, the High Court found that his breaches of trust were so grave that only an immediate prison sentence would suffice. Whether or not he was personally responsible for the depletion of the estate assets, he had defied court orders and culpably failed to match up to his duties as executor.

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