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England and Wales High Court issues warrant for apprehension of elusive executor

Thursday, 14 May, 2020

The England and Wales High Court (EWHC) has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Stephen Frejek, son and former executor of the late Brenda Frejek, because he has failed to obey previous court orders requiring him to account for his dealings with the estate.

Stephen Frejek became his mother's executor after her death in 2009, when he applied for, and was granted, probate of her will. His brother and sister, who were also beneficiaries of their mother's will, heard little from him, although it emerged that Mrs Frejek's house had been sold. In June 2017, his brother Andrew Frejek applied for an order removing Stephen as executor and having himself appointed as his mother's personal representative in his place. This order was granted without opposition, because Stephen did not acknowledge service or engage with the proceedings.

Eighteen months later, Andrew obtained a further order requiring Stephen to produce a statement of account showing all transactions effected by him as executor. The order also required him to deliver up the original grant of probate, produce a completion statement regarding the sale of his mother's home, and present an inventory of all the deceased's household contents and personal effects. Stephen failed to do any of this, possibly because it was served on an address in west London where he was no longer living. Further attempts to serve it personally at his new address in Southampton were unsuccessful. He was given more time to respond, but did not, and permission was given to serve the order by post.

Andrew then made a committal application, to be heard by Skype videoconferencing. Stephen was sent emails inviting him to attend, but did not respond to any of them.

At the Skype hearing, held on 7 May this year, Roth J decided that the evidence showed to the criminal standard that Stephen had completely failed to comply with his obligations. He accordingly found that the defendant was in contempt of court on all four grounds raised in the application.

He considered issuing an immediate committal order against Stephen, but decided not to because it would be 'an extreme step in the absence of the defendant'. Instead, he directed the issue of a bench warrant, so that Stephen could be apprehended and brought before the court for sentencing (Frejek v Frejek, 2020 EWHC 1181 Ch).

Sources