The recent sentencing of David Loveday, who had been entrusted by his neighbour to act as an executor of her estate and frittered away the entire £240,000 estate, is a stark reminder that an executor is acting in a position of trust and that sometimes that trust can be abused. Beneficiaries of an estate should be ready to take action if they believe that an executor is acting in breach of their duties.
Mr Loveday had been appointed as an executor of his neighbour’s estate and upon her death had sold her property and paid the monies into his own account. The estate should have been split equally between the deceased’s partner Emma Cullen and friend Parminder Gibbs but instead it was revealed that he had frittered away the estate on a new car, holidays, paying off his debts and a Netflix subscription.
Mrs Gibbs issued proceedings in the High Court to remove Mr Loveday as an executor of the estate when her requests for payment from the estate were met with excuses and delaying tactics.
During the High Court Proceedings, Mr Loveday was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for failing to disclose where the money was being held and/or what it had been spent on. Following his initial stint in prison, it became clear that the money had been spent and criminal proceedings were brought against him. Mr Loveday pleaded guilty to fraud which resulted in a 3 year and 7-month sentence of imprisonment being imposed on 13th January 2020.
Sadly, it is unlikely that Mrs Gibbs will ever receive the £110,000 which she was due from the estate, nor will she be likely to recover the £60,000 legal costs she incurred in bringing the proceedings to remove Mr Loveday as executor, which she re-mortgaged her home to fund.
Whilst this is an extreme case, it does highlight the importance of seeking expert legal advice as soon as you become concerned that an executor may be acting improperly as if Mrs Gibbs had acted earlier, steps could have been taken to safeguard the funds, pending the outcome of the case.
It is also worth remembering that as well as executors, individuals acting as trustee or as a deputy/attorney for a person who lacks capacity can also abuse their position of trust and it is equally important to take action as soon as possible to limit any potential losses.
If you have a concern regarding the actions of an executor, trustee or attorney/deputy, it is essential that you seek advice from a specialist solicitor at the earliest opportunity. If matters cannot be dealt with in correspondence and by reminding them of the duties and the consequences of breaching them, then proceedings can be issued to remove and replace them with somebody more suitable for the role. Applications to remove executors are on the rise and saw an increase of 138% between 2017 and 2018, suggesting that beneficiaries are taking the necessary steps to protect their inheritance.
How can Geldards help?
If you have any concerns regarding the actions (or lack thereof) of an executor, trustee or an attorney/deputy, please contact Laura Alliss who leads our contentious probate team and will be happy to help.
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