What is the role of an executor in UK law?

Does anybody know what the legal obligations of an executor under UK law?

Our Mother died last year. My two sisters were named as executors as I was overseas for decades.

In her will, our Mother left a rug to a friend. One of my sisters, one of the executors, refuses to give said friend this rug.
Her reason is that she, our sister, gave this rug to our Mother, and she wants it back. She says as she
gave it to our Mother, then it is hers.

Surely if you give someone something, it is then theirs. And they have the right to do with it what they please. In this case, leave it to a dear friend.

Is it legal, as an executor, to refuse to carry out the requests/demands made in a will? This will had been made out and signed at a solicitors.


Please would you explain why you have withdrawn my topic, and why? I realise that
it was a general question about a general UK topic, but many of your readers are British.

I am not sure why you did not show a measure of courtesy and give an explanation.


Poppy fields

My turn to apologise. I could not find my posting, only yours, and thought you had removed it.


Your topic hasn’t been withdrawn. I accidentally withdraw my post on your topic.

No I saw that afterwards. I just could not find my post and then only yours with the withdrawal notice.
Thank you for replying, although I did not actually see it as it had disappeared.


Do a Google search, lots of information there about the responsibilities and obligations of executors including distributing the estate.

Karen, the role of the executors is to ensure the wishes of the deceased is carried out in full accordance with UK law. The only way, I’m aware of, to alter anything is if they contest the will or to reach a legal agreement with the inheritor. Your sister really must speak to a solicitor before trying to withhold a bequest. I’m not an expert in this but have been a joint executor in the not too distant past, so please get qualified legal advice it’s truly not worth upsetting the probate office!

Thank you, Poppy.


Thank you, Debbie.


I was a joint executor for my mother and both in-laws. In each case there was a reason to vary the will (written many years before and things had changed). We were able to do a deed of variation to change the bequests in the will BUT it had to be agreed and signed by all beneficiaries. And it sounds like you are not in agreement!

If the will was specific about this rug, then I think you can challenge the grant of probate by entering a caveat.

It might be that just threatening to do so will change your sister’s mind? Here is the form.

But before you do, think carefully about whether this rug is worth seriously falling out with your sister. Sometimes its better to let things go.

Thank you, Jane.

Yes, I understand about letting things go, but our Mother entrusted my sister to carry out
the wishes she stipulated in her will. She wanted this rug, which her very good friend throughout the years had once remarked was beautiful, to go to this friend.

I consider it very important and a question of duty and honour that my sister fulfills our Mother’s last wishes. Something she entrusted my sister to carry out.

Thank you for the form.


Maybe the rightful owner of the rug would be willing to sell it to your sister, or share it on an alternate weekly basis? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

When Diana died she left a financial bequest to each godchild. The Spencers used their very substantial influence to get the parents of said children to take a keepsake instead .
This is why the rich stay rich.

Do also check that the friend still wants it! There comes a point in life where the last thing you need is more stuff. And simply knowing that you had been left that bequest could be enough (or that plus a cash payment for whatever the rug is worth…).

I have followed this topic and quietly smiled throughout.
In the past 3 years I have administered 2 estates which varied vastly from each other.
My wife tells me that I am a sadO as I love the buzz of orderly paperwork. When you receive probate for an estate you are also given lawful written instructions on your role as executor/administrator and if in doubt there is lots of guidance on the www.
An estate must be distributed as the deceased intended, it is not the administrator that can pick and choose.
My sister in law is in a similar situation In that she has 2 sisters who are executors of thier fathers estate and her sisters attempt to side line her at every turn.
I suspect that in posting this particular problem with the rug that there is perhaps not perfect harmony between you and your sisters?
Like all legal requirements people abuse them and it takes forever to bring them to rights.
It is only a rug after all! Unless it is perhaps Persian and worth a fortune then get over it and let it go. If it were a dispute over dividing up the proceeds of property or bank accounts then that is entirely a different matter.

Everything that I’ve read says that the executors have a duty to follow the wording of the will.

To say that it’s only a rug and to suggest that sentimental bequests are less important than financial bequests is the thin end of the wedge and, in my opinion, is a sign that the executor is not up to carrying out the duty placed on them. Both legally and morally the rug should go to the person is was intended for.
Wills cause huge problems within families but that’s life. I’ve only seen one of my sisters once, at a family funeral, during the past 20 years since she blatantly stole from my father’s estate. I’ve heard all the how sad, she’s family speeches but the fact is that life is short and I have no wish to waste any of it with people I really dislike even if they share my DNA.


Hello Karen, sorry to hear about your ‘dilemma’. I was appointed Executor for my late Father who died last year. Executor’s roles are VERY CLEAR- you do not have the authority to pick and choose the parts you agree with and ignore the parts you don’t like!
You are appointed Executor to carry out the deceased wishes, as such you are in a position of trust to carry out those wishes to the letter, no matter what you think of them !My own Father’s will was not what I thought it should be,BUT it was his choice not mine,I’m legally obliged to deliver his wishes no matter what I think. Best suggestion is to contact the Probate Office where the application is most likely to be registered(they were extremely helpful )it doesn’t cost much to put a Caveat to prevent your sisters doing what they like !you can always remove it when the situation has been cleared up ,it just means that they cannot obtain the Grant of Probate until this matter has been resolved,easy to complete forms online, but be prepared for the fall-out families can be evil where Wills are concerned.Would recommend contacting who the rug is to begiven to for their feelings on the gift, you could contact a Uk solicitor most will give free 30 mins advice also CO-op were quite good, wouldn’t suggest you employ a Solicitor they are there to make money and this is simple to do ,talk to the Probate Office first ! Do your homework ,Good luck Ellie

Thank you very much indeed, Ellie!


Thank you, Martin.


Not quite the same issue but my sister and I were joint executors of our father’s estate . When it came time to sell his house she wanted to put it on the open market . We were POA’ for our parents when they were alive. We had rented their house out to help
towards their care fees. Our tenant was a young lady with a 3 yr old child. We accepted an offer from the parents of our tenant to purchase the house but their mortgage valuation was less than their offer so they asked if we’d accept the lower price . I was ok with it as I wanted the young woman to have the stable home which her parents and family were all clubbing together to provide for her. It was against the backdrop of the referendum and there was every possibility house prices might fall so I thought their offer was still reasonable given what other houses were selling for. My sister was adamant the house should now go on the open market as she thought it would sell for more . I tried to reason with her that we’d no idea if the house WOULD sell for more on the open market and that in all conscience I could not evict a young woman and her child in order to sell it on the the open market in order to possibly make more money. That my conscience meant more than the money. My sister tried to reason that it was what dad would want . That given my circumstances (I rented my house - long story) she wanted me to have as much from the sale as possible. I tried to reason with her that had the house been cash in the bank we would not be disagreeing and that whatever we got for it was a bonus we’d never expected and dad wouldn’t want us to be squabbling over money. I even offered to give my sister the difference (about £7k) that she might lose out on if the house sold for more on the open market . She remained adamant that she wanted to evict the tenant and put the house on the open market (the only way we could sell and it would take months if not years).
To set this in context I had been made homeless many years before with 2 small children and felt it was what dad would have wanted for us to help the young woman as he had helped me. Not quite in the same way as he didn’t buy me a house but he helped in practical ways when I was rehoused.
Anyhow that’s a rather long explanation to get to how it was resolved . There was more to it than I’ve described but eventually I emailed my sister and said the only solution would be to relinquish our executorships and hand it all back to the solicitor dealing with probate to decide. She finally saw sense . Possibly because the solicitor would’ve charged a huge fee negating any extra profit , I don’t know. Anyhow the house was sold to the family at the price they offered and the young woman and her child got to stay on in the house they’d come to regard as their home . They were over the moon and I visited them at the house shortly after the sale went through to take them a couple of gifts to say thank you for buying the house. They gave me huge hugs and a massive bunch of flowers , lovely thank you cards together with a home made “family tree” carving in a frame (her mum makes them for a living) . Money and possessions aren’t everything in this world . Being able to help someone meant so much more.