Executor/Personal Representative/Administrator? You have to follow the law…


11 August 2020

By Farhad Islam

A recent Court Case has ended with a window cleaner, Peter Ivory, being told he must pay back nearly £250k to the beneficiaries of his dead brother’s estate after giving the money away to the homeless.

Following his brother Michael’s death, Peter Ivory decided to distribute Michael’s estate worth £367,000, after expenses, to homeless people on the streets of Cambridge,

The Isle of Wight and Scotland. Peter had done this on the basis that it was Michael’s dying wish; however, Michael had not written a Will. Peter now faces a near £250k bill after a High Court judge ruled this as a “monumental breach” of his role as administrator of Michael’s estate.

Peter argued that Michael had a poor relationship with his family and that Michael had expressed on his death bed that his money was to be given to the “hard-working poor and homeless” with his family receiving nothing. Peter argued that he felt he was doing the morally right thing in following Michael’s dying wish. However, High Court Judge Timothy Bowles stated to Peter “You knew that they had legal entitlements, but you decided that, because your brother had expressed certain wishes, you weren’t going to comply with the law”.

Without a Will laying out such wishes, it was deemed that Peter did not have a right to do this and instead the money should have been split with their other relatives. Intestacy laws make it clear that an administrator has a legal obligation to share the estate between the deceased’s surviving next of kin. As result, Peter must now pay back nearly a quarter of a million pounds from his own funds.

Michael’s case highlights the importance of ensuring that all your wishes are laid out within a Will and that the person responsible for administering an estate complies with the law, even if there is no Will. Without a Will you get no say as to who receives your estate and should an administrator try to fulfil your spoken wishes, the result can be costly.

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