How an independent executor of your Will may avoid dramatic family feuds

By Caitlyn Wessels, Lawyer at Hillhouse Legal Partners
| 4 min. read

Key takeaways

  • Family relationships can become strained when a loved one passes and there are disagreements over their Will. 
  • Appointing one child as a sole executor over other children or relatives can cause family tensions. 
  • Appointing an independent executor who can manage your loved one’s estate can be a good option to help avoid any potential family conflict. 

Our relationships with family are some of the strongest bonds we form, however all too often, many family relationships can become strained when a loved one passes. This is especially common when there are disagreements over the Will, or if they pass without a valid Will.  

Recently, two Queensland brothers aged in their late 50s made the news when they traveled all the way to Victoria in order to prevent their sister receiving the part of the profits of a house left behind by their mother. 

Their mother had left her estate (including the house) to be divided evenly amongst all her 3 children, with the sister as the executor of her mother’s estate. This decision was repeatedly challenged by both brothers but it is reported they eventually agreed to the house being sold.  

The day before auction of the property, the two brothers stole items from the home, hired an excavator to destroy the mother’s house and graffitied “Lois was murdered here” on the walls before drawing the outline of a body on the floor.  

The destruction process was filmed to the “amusement” of the brothers, who said that they would rather “pull it down piece by piece” than see their sister “getting a cent”  from the likely profits of the sale of the house. 

The brothers did not seem to care that they were destroying their own inheritance as well. In Court, Judge Cahill told the brothers that the “world is laughing at you for your stupidity” and the brothers apparently only avoided jail time as they pleaded guilty to the charges.  

Although a rather extreme example, family disputes are unfortunately an all too common occurrence when a loved one passes. Appointing one child as a sole executor over the other children or relatives can result in significant family tension. 

Despite an executor’s role being purely an administrative one with no financial benefit and often a burden on the person appointed, family members can mistakenly believe that being appointed as executor gives one sibling a greater entitlement to the estate or more importance than other relatives.  

If you or a loved one is concerned about their executor or determining who to appoint, it may be a good option to appoint a professional executor such as an accountant or lawyer, or a friend or relative who is removed from the situation.  

This way, your loved one’s estate can be managed at arms-length and potentially avoid any catastrophic arguments or consequences.  

To get in contact, send us an email or call 07 3220 1144 to discuss your personal circumstances. 

The information in this blog is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.