Your Will : Executors – who are they and what do they do?

Regardless of its later terms, most Wills start with a statement revoking (cancelling) all previous Wills and appointing Executors. Executors play a pivotal role in administering an estate after someone dies and it is important to understand what the job entails so that you can be sure you have asked the right people.

It is also important to realise that if you do not leave a Will, then the law allows only those who benefit from the estate to also deal with the administration of it. This may not be entirely appropriate, particularly if the beneficiaries are very young, are vulnerable in another way, or you consider them to be irresponsible. Having a Will makes sure you are able to choose who carries out this vital role. 

Executors can also be beneficiaries and you can appoint a maximum of 4 Executors. You may decide that you want more than one Executor so that they can support each other in the role, but bear in mind that if all Executors want to act, they will have to act unanimously and every form will need to be signed by every Executor.

Executors have significant duties and are answerable to the beneficiaries of the estate and ultimately to the Probate Court if anything goes wrong.  Even if there are no legal complications, Executors will have to be very well organised! Even the most straight-forward seeming estates will have paperwork and forms which need to be completed, and assets which need to be kept track of, and bills which need to be paid.

The main duties of an Executor are to:

  • Locate and identify your assets and any liabilities
  • Review your Will and make sure they understand it
  • Determine the beneficiaries and whether there are any conditions or restrictions associated with their gifts
  • Apply to Court for a Grant of Probate and deal with the Inheritance Tax declarations
  • Collect in assets, and make sure all claims and debts are received, substantiated and paid
  • Preparing estate accounts and taxation returns where needed; and
  • Arrange for the final distribution of the estate.

If your Will leaves any gifts on trust, which includes gifts to children who have not yet reached the age you specified, then your Executors will automatically also be the Trustees of those funds, unless you appoint different individuals.

As Trustees they will be responsible for managing those funds after the estate has been completed, until the trust comes to an end, or other Trustees are appointed in their place.

Finally, bear in mind that Executors are entitled to have their out of pocket expenses paid from the estate, and can instruct solicitors or other professionals to help advise them and deal with the administration if appropriate. The costs of these professionals would be taken from the estate funds.

Through a Will you have the power to make sure you choose the right person or people for this role. If you would like further advice concerning the role and duties of Executors and how to appoint them in your Will please contact Kathryn Caple on 01283 526200 or email

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