Beware of appointing your children as executors

19 Jul 2022 | Jenny Walsh
Businessman and Male lawyer or judge consult having team meeting with client, Law and Legal services concept

Where tensions exist between family members, making your children the executors of your will can cause huge problems with probate, leading to delays, legal costs and even the possibility of probate disputes, lawyers warn.

Whilst appointing your children as executors is common practice, our lawyers warn that those making a will should think carefully about who they appoint, especially if their children do not get along.

Jenny Walsh, a partner specialising in wills and trusts, says, “We see countless situations where the process of dealing with a loved one’s estate has all but ground to a halt, with long held grudges or differences of opinion between family members holding up the probate process at every stage.”

“For many, making their child an executor will be problem free, however, where siblings or other friends or relatives acting as executors don’t get on, or where one executor believes the estate has been divided unfairly, it can become impossible for them to agree on the basics, from obtaining probate, closing bank accounts and paying invoices, to the sale of the family home – often the most contentious and emotive aspect of dealing with an estate.

“As well as ensuring your executors have a cordial relationship with one another, they should ideally also be from a younger generation, be financially responsible and able to keep good records. Probate can be a complicated process, so it is better to avoid those who may be elderly at the time of your death or have a poor history of managing their own affairs. Executors must remain neutral and if one or more take issue with how the estate is to be divided then there is an inherent conflict with their role as executor.”

If you anticipate conflict around your estate, instead of choosing a family member, it is advisable to choose a professional executor when making your will. They will be able to act independently to carry out your wishes. Often people are concerned about how much this will cost the estate but in most situations the cost of a dispute between executors far outweighs those associated with appointing a professional as an executor.

Disagreements can also be avoided by ensuring there is no ambiguity around how you want how your assets to be divided, through a letter of wishes.

Jenny says, “One common source of conflict can be when a will does not specify, for example, which personal possessions will be left to which beneficiaries and instead it is left to executors to decide who will get what.

“It’s advisable to leave a letter of wishes alongside your will to give more details – many people plan to do this at a later date but never get around to it, however prioritising who will be given the most expensive or sentimental items such as jewellery, paintings or other family heirlooms, can make things far easier for those you leave behind.”

When conflicts do arise between executors, solicitors can step in in an attempt to reach an agreement between parties, taking separate instructions from both parties and communicating between them to push the process along. If there is a disagreement over a specific legal issue, independent advice can be sought from legal counsel, with both parties agreeing to adhere to the outcome.

If these options fail, says Jenny, the process can become costly, “The next step would be mediation, which can be expensive and is not always payable from the estate if the conflict is seen as the fault of one or both executors. If all else fails, it is possible to go to court and ask for the removal of one of the executors. Invariably, however, the court will refuse to get involved in the dispute and instead order the removal of both executors, to be replaced by an independent professional administrator.

“It is, therefore, advisable to think carefully before appointing children, or any other family members that do not get along with each other and would not be able to carry out the role of executor in a neutral and objective manner.”

Share this article


Contact Jenny today

For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you

    • "We would like to thank you very much for your help.
      You always got back to us quickly and gave us very precise information.
      I don't know how we would have handled our father's inheritance without you.
      Thank you very much!"


    • “Thank you for your 1st class professional service and support on this.”

      Client review

    • “Jenny was fabulous….full stop!”

      Client review

    • “Many thanks for all your assistance in this matter [making a will] we are very pleased we chose to come to you and Osbornes.”

      Client review

    • "Thank you Jenny for all you have done... I am very appreciative and glad that we selected you to do the work. It has made the path of Probate smoother than anticipated and your expertise has been reassuring throughout."


    • "Jan Atkinson, with her steely, steady, calming presence, instils confidence in the most highly-strung of us clients. With her masterful knowledge of the law, old and new, and its application, Jan can navigate through the most complex of cases to a successful end."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "I find Osbornes’ client-friendly approach welcoming and refreshing"

      Legal 500 2021

    • "A medium-sized London firm dealing with big litigation and doing it extremely well because of a depth of expertise and experience."

      Legal 500 2021

    • My family had the pleasure of Jan Atkinson working with us on the will and probate issues of [my mother's] estate in Camden and Ireland after she passed on last year. Jan and her assistant(s) offered us a fantastic service at a sad time.

      Client Review

    • "Jan Atkinson stands out for her wide-ranging knowledge and experience of estates; whatever problem you throw at her, she has seen it all before and is able to find a creative and sustainable solution. She has exceptional commitment to her clients and explores every avenue to find the best solution for them"

      Legal 500 2021 - Jan Atkinson

    • The team is very caring, experienced and detailed and was clear about the  next steps and offered very helpful advice and suggestions

      Legal 500

    • Jan Atkinson has extensive experience in private client matters, which underpins her excellent skills in the contentious probate area. Plus she is strong on international matters

      Legal 500 2020 - Jan Atkinson

    • A small but formidable team, punching above its weight. Jan Atkinson is a seasoned pro. Approachable but no push-over

      Legal 500 2020 - Jan Atkinson

    • "They are an outstanding firm to work with. They are consistently impressive in their work."

      Chambers UK

    • "Elspeth Neilson is very reliable and practical."

      The Legal 500

    • "The team frequently deals with cross-border estates for high–net-worth individuals."

      The Legal 500

    • "The team were extremely professional in putting my needs first. There was a joined-up approach to catering for the client, and all lawyers involved were briefed and constructive."

      Chambers UK

    • "Service prompt and effective. I have absolute confidence in Maggie."

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • I am happy with the service that I got and would recommend you to other potential clients.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • I found Osbornes always very helpful and efficient.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • We are very pleased with the services of Osbornes. Highly professional and through with close attention to detail.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • I would highly recommend Jan Atkinson in any probate matter and Osbornes Solicitors in any other legal matters.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • Jan Atkinson is a very proficient lady whom I would highly recommend to anyone involved in probates.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • Thanks for all your work and explaining everything so clearly. For any legal matters in the future I would not hesitate in instructing Osbornes.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • We have found your service to date as the most informative we have come across.

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates Client

    • Jan Atkinson is confident with a straightforward approach. Her practice covers both contentious and non-contentious matters, including wealth planning and estate administration.

      Chambers UK

    • I would like to thank everyone in my case for the excellent job!

      Wills, Probate & Disputed Estates client

    Related InsightsVIEW ALL

    1. Businessman and Male lawyer or judge consult having team meeting with client, Law and Legal services concept

      Beware of appointing your children as executors

      Where tensions exist between family members, making your children the executors of your will can cause huge problems with probate,...

      Read more
    2. probate lawyer scrabble

      Dealing with Debts as an Executor

      It is a common misconception that a person’s debts die with them. After you die your debts become the...

      Read more
    3. 14.4.2021

      Osbornes Shortlisted as Probate Law Firm of the...

      Osbornes have been shortlisted as finalists for an award at the 2021 UK Probate Research Awards. The firm has been shortlisted...

      Read more
    4. 25.9.2020

      Making a Will by video link

      The Government has recently announced plans to allow for the witnessing of Wills and Codicils by video conferencing. This is...

      Read more
    5. 27.7.2020

      Video-witnessed wills

      Over the weekend the government announced plans to introduce legislation that will allow wills to be witnessed remotely via video. ...

      Read more
    6. 2.7.2020

      Probate Applications – the latest on turnaround times

      Until around 18 months ago, the turnaround time for grant of probate applications could be as little as 5 to 7 days if...

      Read more
    7. 10.6.2020

      How to ensure money left in your will...

      The coronavirus crisis has seen the public rally around the NHS which has benefitted from considerable fundraising efforts and donations...

      Read more
    8. 27.4.2020

      Wills, Probate and Estate Administration – dispelling common myths

      Certain myths come up time after time in Private Client Law and in this article I hope to dispel some...

      Read more
    9. 1.4.2020

      How do I make a will with social...

      The coronavirus crisis means many are considering updating their will or making one for the first time. Whilst this is...

      Read more
    10. 26.3.2020

      Property up to £1m can be inheritance tax...

      Changes to inheritance tax allowances mean married couples can leave property worth £1 million tax-free from 6 April. Modest houses in parts...

      Read more
    11. hampstead office

      Hampstead solicitor becomes notary public

      Hampstead solicitor Elspeth Neilson of Osbornes Law has qualified as a notary public (a notary), meaning she can now certify...

      Read more
    12. 22.10.2019

      Property abroad? Beware of forced heirship rules

      Whether it’s a holiday home, an investment property or a place you want to retire to, if you own...

      Read more
    13. unwanted call

      How to Protect Yourself From Will Scams

      Much has been written about protecting older or vulnerable people from online scams – according to Age UK, an older person...

      Read more
    14. 31.7.2019

      FAQs about the Residence Nil Rate Band (‘RNRB’)

      [sc_fs_faq sc_id=”fs_faqx07rnmye9″ html=”true” headline=”h3″ img=”” question=”What is the RNRB?” img_alt=””...

      Read more
    15. 26.7.2019

      What happens to your digital assets on death?

      This question is become increasingly prominent with the advancement of technology and increase in social media platforms. Digital assets can...

      Read more
    16. 3.7.2019

      Assets abroad? Why you may need more than...

      As more of us become internationally mobile, it’s increasingly common to own assets abroad. Yet lawyers say many people...

      Read more
    17. 31.5.2019

      ‘DIY Wills’

      The Law Gazette has recently reported that ‘DIY Wills’ are being blamed for the rise in probate disputes, and this...

      Read more
    18. 25.3.2019

      Cross Border Issues – Wills and Succession

      An increasing number of individuals have connections with more than one jurisdiction. Conflicting rules can significantly affect their estate planning...

      Read more
    19. person receiving bad news

      Intestacy Rules

      What are the rules of intestacy? It is estimated that between half and two-thirds of the adult population have not...

      Read more
    20. 25.3.2019

      Treasury collecting millions when no will has been...

      Finding beneficiaries for unclaimed assets The amount of unclaimed assets has nearly doubled in the last year, with the Prince...

      Read more
    21. 19.2.2019

      Government plans to increase Probate Fees

      The government is to press ahead with plans to substantially increase probate fees. Currently, there is a flat fee of £215...

      Read more
    22. osbornes law office

      Online Probate

      Apply for Probate Online HM Courts and Tribunals Service has announced its expansion of the online probate application system, which...

      Read more
    23. 23.9.2018

      Suzanna Baker Explains Court of Protection Applications to...

      Private client lawyer and specialist Court of Protection lawyer, Suzanna Baker, recently spoke to the BBC concerning applications to ‘The...

      Read more
    24. 13.11.2017

      Mutual Wills – FAQs

      The High Court’s decision in the recent case of Legg and Burton v Burton [2017] has highlighted the issues surrounding...

      Read more