Sometimes, executors (professional or otherwise) are frustratingly slow at applying for a grant of probate. There may be legitimate reasons for this, however, sometimes it’s just procrastination or a desire to avoid a long-brewing probate dispute. This can lead to delay and a strain on beneficiaries who are keen to obtain the grant as soon as possible.

When executors fail to apply for a grant of probate in a timely manner, any person interested in the estate can file a citation which requires the executor to take steps to accelerate the process. This is a useful and economic route to take, as it only attracts a nominal court fee. Whilst not suitable for every scenario, e.g. when a beneficiary would prefer to remove an executor altogether, it remains a valuable tool to move things along.


Citations are notices issued from the Principal Registry or district probate registry, compelling an executor to either advance the administration of the deceased’s estate by applying for the grant or forfeit their right to act. The type of citation issued depends on the stage of administration reached:

A citation to accept or refuse a grant.

This type of citation is appropriate in circumstances where the named executor has not intermeddled in the estate (broadly speaking, any step toward administering the estate). It can be issued by anyone who would be entitled to be an executor if the named executor renounced their right (namely but not exclusively a beneficiary).

Citation to take probate.

This type of citation is used where the named executor has intermeddled with the estate but has failed to obtain a grant six months after the death. It can be issued by anyone with an interest in the estate (namely but not exclusively a beneficiary).


The procedure for issuing a citation is straightforward.

Firstly, a caveat is entered to prevent a grant of probate from being issued. Then, a draft of the citation is lodged with the registry together with the will and an affidavit supporting the application. The citation will set out the reason for its issue, the interest of the person and the order the citor is asking to be made. Once issued, the citation is served on the executor and an affidavit of service is filed at court.

The executor must respond within eight-days of service by entering an appearance and serving a copy of it on the citor. This leads to two possible scenarios:

The executor fails to respond. The outcome will depend on the type of citation used. If the citation was to accept or refuse a grant, the citor seeks an order to apply for a grant themselves. Alternatively, if the citation was to take out a grant of probate, the citor seeks an order that the executor take out the grant within a specified time, or else the grant should be made to the citor or some other specified person.

Or, the executor enters an appearance, they must take reasonable steps to apply for the grant of representation and administer the estate, otherwise the citor may apply to the court for a grant to be issued to them instead. This usually ensures that the executor(s) move swiftly to apply for a grant, but if they fail to do so they will lose their right to act.

Citations are useful to force the hand of named executors.

In my experience, executors are often amid complex family politics and a nudge in the right direction can produce the desired effect. In these circumstances, citations act to cajole reluctant executor(s) into action which is preferable to the estate incurring the costs of an expensive court application to replace them.

On behalf of executors, it is important to act swiftly as there is an eight-day time limit to respond to a citation. Alternatively, when acting on behalf of beneficiaries, the eight-day time limit provides an opportunity to bring matters to a head and resolve long-running disputes.

Citations thus provide another tool for beneficiaries to use to expedite the administration of the estate when communication has broken down.

For any advice related to applying for grants of probate or citations do not hesitate to contact me on or call on 01243 044516.