Sometimes one can come across an estate, whose administration is so complex and stalling that the personal representatives find themselves needing to seek directions from the Court on a number of issues. 

There is a very rarely used power under s.1 Judicial Trustees Act 1896 whereby the Court can appoint a Judicial Trustee to act under the direction of the Court. 

Once appointed, the Judicial Trustee becomes an officer of the Court and the Court supervises the administration of the estate until its conclusion. 

In the same application, the existing personal representatives named on the Grant of Probate are often removed.  But, if there is such a change in executorship, the Court will want to know suggested answers to the issues the personal representatives are facing.    The general principle is that the previous executors are indemnified out of the estate and the executors need to give their reasons for standing down as executors – for example, ill health, difficulties in the case etc. 

The appointment of a Judicial Trustee can really be seen as a half-way house between the appointment of an Independent Administrator and the Court administering the estate themselves. 

If the application is successful, the estate is assigned a Chancery Master who can be written to regularly for guidance.  It will be necessary to make reports to the Master at various intervals, perhaps quarterly.  The Judicial Trustee still has personal liability but has protection for decisions made because they would be administering the estate under the guidance of the Court. 

An application for the appointment of a Judicial Trustee needs to be served on all parties to the estate.  If there is no objection to the appointment of the Judicial Trustee, then the Court can decide to make the order relating to their appointment, but the issues under dispute would be dealt with during the course of the administration of the estate. 

If you have any queries in relation to such an application, please do not hesitate to contact Helen Freely on 0207 216 5521.

This briefing was posted on 17 January 2018

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