Sadly, this can, and does happen, especially when executors themselves are sick or elderly. This happened on one of my probate files a few years ago and it was such a sad situation, The Grant of Probate had been issued a few weeks before and then the executor died suddenly.
What happens next depends on where things are at with the administration of the estate and if the executor had a will or died intestate.
In the simplest scenario, where the Grant of Probate has not yet been issued, then any other executors named in the will can take over the application in place of the main or original executor.
If the executor died intestate, then their duties would cease and a substitute executor would step in (as above). Their own estate would be administered according the process for Intestate Estates (see Article 2).
In the case I dealt with, the Grant of Probate had been issued and the executor had a will of his own. In this circumstance it is the executor’s executor who has to act on both estates. This may seem a bit surprising as it could end up that someone completely unrelated to your estate ends up administering it!
To give you an example: Mr H’s estate was being administered by his main executor, his best friend – Mr B. Another friend, Mr K, was a second or substitute executor. When Mr B died following the issue of the Grant of Probate, his wife and executor, Mrs B, was responsible for the administration of both his and Mr H’s estates. You would assume that Mr K would have stepped in a substitute, but this is not the case. This is known as the Chain of Representation.
If you find yourself in any of the above scenarios then I am here to help! Please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation and I can advise you on the next steps to take.