One of the main reasons for making a Will is the opportunity to appoint the person of your choice to administer your Estate – who is known as an Executor.
What must an Executor do?
An Executor has the responsibility of carrying out your wishes as set out in your Will. The duties can include:
- Identifying where your Will is and informing family and friends of your death
- Making your property secure – whether this is your house, car, motorcycle, boat or caravan
- Registering your death
- Arranging the funeral, as set out in your Will or any prepaid funeral plan
- Gathering together all of your important financial paperwork and documents
- Making an appointment with a Solicitor to discuss the administration of your Estate and how to obtain probate
- Filing the appropriate Inheritance Tax Return
- Paying all debts and taxes that are due
- Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in the way your Will provides
An Executor must put the interests of the beneficiaries before their own and cannot profit from carrying out their duties.
An Executor can be personally liable to pay financial penalties if full enquiries are not made, incorrect information is filed or accounts are not filed on time with HM Revenue & Customs.
What must an Executor be?
An Executor’s role can be demanding and time-consuming. You should, therefore, take great care in choosing your Executor.
An Executor must be:
- Aged at least 18 years
It is sensible to appoint someone younger than you or someone who is likely to outlive you. If you appoint someone of your own age or older you run the risk of problems if they die in your lifetime.
- Of sound mind
Your Executor needs to know what they are doing and have the health and mental capacity to carry out the role.
- Someone who is trustworthy, reliable and capable of administering your estate
Your Executor must not be bankrupt or have any convictions for theft, dishonesty, fraud or deception. You would not want an Executor handling your financial affairs if they could not look after their own.
- Someone who agrees to take on the role and is fully aware of their responsibilities
It is advisable to ask your Executor first before appointing them. Failure to do so could mean they refuse to act.
Who can be an Executor?
Provided that your chosen executor satisfies the above criteria they can be:
- Your spouse or children
This has the advantage in that they are closest to you and have a vested interest in ensuring the administration of your estate is completed quickly and efficiently.
- A beneficiary named in your Will
It is a common misconception that a person cannot be both an Executor and a beneficiary.
- A professional advisor
Such as a Solicitor or Accountant.
- A bank
The fees of a bank will typically exceed those of a professional advisor.
- The Public Trustee
This is an official appointed by the Government and again the fees will typically exceed those of a professional advisor.
Do I need a solicitor as an Executor?
There are a number of reasons why you may wish to appoint a Solicitor as your Executor:
- A solicitor can make decisions in the best interests of ALL the beneficiaries and will have no vested interest in the estate.
- If your executors are unable to act together as a “team” and you need a solicitor to act as a mediator.
- If your affairs are complicated or substantial and a lay person would not have the time or expertise to deal with such affairs.
- If you have no close relatives or friends available to act as your executor.
- If there is likely to be a dispute between the executors or the beneficiaries.
- If someone has been excluded and it is advantageous to have an independent Executor rather than someone known to the excluded individual.
How many Executors can I appoint?
You can appoint up to four Executors, but this could mean your Estate takes longer to administer.
You may appoint one Executor, but there will be problems if this Executor dies before you.
The appointment of 2 or 3 Executors with a combination of lay and professional executors is usually the best option.
Can I change the appointment of my Executor?
There may be circumstances when you wish to change the executor because:
- Your Executor has died
- Your Executor has moved – regionally, nationally or internationally
- Your Executor is no longer able or willing to act
- You have fallen out with your Executor
- Your Executor has become bankrupt
- Your Executor has become incapacitated and has had to have someone look after their own affairs
- Your circumstances have changed and you need (or no longer need) a professional Executor
- The appointment needs to be updated because your children are now of age and can act
What is the next step?
Everyone’s circumstances are different. We strongly recommend a face-to-face meeting with one of our specialist Solicitors who will be able to explain things in greater detail and advise you on the appointment of your executors to ensure your specific wishes are met.