Lawlink – What can I do about estranged brother delaying inheritance process?

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Q: My father died three years ago. His estate was substantial. He had land, two houses, and various bank accounts. My father made my brother the sole executor of his estate and all assets were left equally between my brother and I. Unfortunately, my brother and I have not spoken to each other for many years, and he is not giving me any information with regard to my inheritance. My brother is quite well off and would not need the inheritance, I on the other hand am in financial difficulty to the point where the banks are writing to me threatening repossession of my house. I have told them I am due an inheritance but at this point they are saying that they are going to have to issue proceedings. Is there anything I can do to make my brother deal with the estate and progress matters?

Dear Reader,

This is a most unfortunate situation. At the outset I would see if you could mend fences somehow, so at least the lines of communication can open.

Do you know the name of your father’s solicitor? If so, I would make contact with them immediately setting out your “stall” so to speak and asking them to confirm what the up-to-date position is. While the solicitor technically only has a duty to the executor, I think they may accommodate liaising with you.

You might point out to your brother that, as he is duly appointed executor of your father’s estate, he is under a legal obligation to discharge his duties as executor without delay.

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Your brother’s refusal to communicate with you and indeed the fact that you have not received any benefit under the estate for three years is unreasonable, to say the least. If you do not get anywhere with your father’s solicitor or your brother, it is open to you to make an application under Section 16 of the Succession Act 1965 to the Probate Office of the High Court to summons your brother to either (A) prove, or (B) renounce probate.

If your brother chooses to renounce his position as executor, then you can apply to be appointed the new executor to administer your father’s estate.

There are certain time limits that apply to making these types of applications and as a period of three years have already elapsed you should take immediate action in making this application and seek your solicitors advice.

With regard to the legal costs involved in any such application to the Probate Office, they would normally be paid out of the value of the estate. You might also mention this to your brother as the more that goes on legal costs the less that you and your brother will benefit.

As regards the bank, clearly if they saw evidence of such an application being made to the Probate Office then they may very well hold off on taking any proceedings with regard to your house.