ESTATE LAW: A note on “Intermedelling” – “Intermedelling” with Estate
In my previous posts, I have repeatedly expressed the importance of having a Will. One of the best part of it is exercising your freedom to choose. You make decisions as to how you want your estate to be distributed after your death. There is also a freedom to choose the Executor(s) or Personal Representative(s) [PR] for the administration of the estate. PR or Executors are the persons who would apply to the court for grant of Probate. You may choose to have one or more PRs for the estate, or single or joint or alternate PRs. A PR can be a close friend, any trusted individual, or an organization (bank or law offices). There can be multiple PRs named in the will if one or two of them do not wish to act. Of course, they also have freedom to choose, subject to certain conditions.
The role of a PR is of great responsibility. You cannot be forced to be a PR or Executor of an estate if you do not wish to do so. PR(s) who wish not to act may surrender or renounce their right to apply for the grant of probate under certain conditions. Once of the conditions to renounce your rights to apply for grant of probate is that you must have not “intermeddled” in the Estate.
The Surrogate Rules and the Wills and Succession Act, require that for a PR to renounce his/her/their rights to act as PR, the PR must not have been already involved in the administration of the estate, i.e., the PR has not made any payments for the estate debts or had not received any funds on behalf of the estate. This is referred as intermeddling.
To be clear, simply paying for funeral expenses would not amount to intermeddling. To intermeddle, you must have something which would give an impression to others that you intend to act as a PR for the estate, for example, taking possession of the property belonging to the estate or having represented to any individual or organization declaring yourself as the PR for the estate.
In the event a PR has intermeddled in an estate, he/she/they would be liable for multiple things, including, loss or damages for improperly handing the estate, estate taxes, responsibility to settle estate debts with creditors, etc.
What if a PR has already intermeddled in an estate, but at some point decides not to continue to act as a PR? Again, your freedom to choose would not be extinguished. You may still have few options to choose from, for example: reserving your right to be an executor, or appointing an attorney on behalf of the executor. This would be a topic for another post.