Wills & Probate: Executors

An executor is a legal term referring to a person named by the maker of a Will or nominated by the testator to carry out the instructions of the Will.

When making a Will, considering the right person to appoint as your executor is key. Their role involves significant duties ensuring that your estate and wishes are properly administered.

Executor’s duties

  • Locating and identifying your assets and any liabilities
  • Dealing with the administration of the estate to collect in these assets
  • Determining the beneficiaries
  • Accounting to HMRC for any Inheritance Tax due
  • Applying to Court for a Grant of Probate
  • Making sure all claims and debts are received, substantiated and paid
  • Arranging for distribution of the net estate
  • Preparing estate accounts and taxation returns where needed

Who would make a good executor?

An executor should be someone you consider to be well organised and can cope well with responsibility. Even the most straightforward-seeming estates will involve a certain amount of paperwork and forms, assets which need to be kept track of and bills which need to be paid. Good communication skills are also essential – dealing not only with financial organisations, but sometimes difficult family members and situations. Ask yourself, ‘can my executor maintain a clear head in what can often be very trying circumstances’?

Should your Will involve any Trusts (these could arise if money is left to children under 18, as well as where specific trust terms are included), your executor will also be the default ‘trustee’ to manage these concerns. This factor means it is even more important to choose someone you can depend upon. If you choose more than one, be aware they will have to act together in all things so it is essential that they get on!

A Professional Executor?

Most people will look to appoint family members and/or friends as executors, however it is important to also consider a professional such as a solicitor. Solicitors may be a good idea if your estate is complex, or there are difficult family circumstances to navigate. Although a solicitor will charge for their time to deal with the estate, they will have experience of dealing with such matters, be bound by professional standards and duties, and will have an objective and neutral stance if any issues were to arise.

Bear in mind that an executor is appointed for life, and cannot retire once they have started to act. Some common issues that arise in the administration of an estate include:

  • Family disputes
  • Chosen executors cannot cope with the administration and necessary paperwork
  • The emotion of losing someone close means the executor cannot cope with the additional responsibilities at an already difficult time
  • The executor does not action any of the necessary responsibilities

To summarise… Our key message is to choose carefully!

If you would like to discuss your wishes and options relating to Wills and future planning, please contact kathryn.caple@elselaw.co.uk or call her on 01283 526 200.

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