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A look at Executors in your Will

A look at Executors in your Will

One of the most important things you do when you make a Will is to choose your Executor(s).  But do you know that they do and who you should appoint?  In all my initial discussions with clients, we take a look at Executors in your Will, discuss what they do and chat about who to choose. 

In summary

Being an Executor is an important and responsible role – they sort out your affairs, pay any debts, apply for “Probate” and distribute your assets. It can take up a lot of time, so make sure you choose someone who you trust and can do the job properly.

It is sensible to have a backup executor in case one can’t undertake the role when the time comes. If you feel there may be disagreements about your wishes, it may also be sensible to have two or more executors who can be impartial and make sure your wishes are carried out. We can recommend professional executors if you feel your estate will be complex to administrate.

Make sure you speak to your executors in advance, to make sure they are happy to take on this role and they know where your will is going to be stored. We can provide will storage services if you need them.

Here is some more detailed information to help you find out more and choose the right person:

What is an Executor?

An executor is someone you appoint in your will to distribute your estate according to your wishes. Normally this means finding out what you have and what you owe, then gathering in any monies and paying any debts and bills , and finally making any gifts set out in the Will

What does an Executor need to do?

There are a number of things an Executor needs to do, including:

  • Arranging the Funeral
  • Finding the Will and making sure there are no other more recent versions
  • Finding all the beneficiaries you have named (and making sure there are no others)
  • Identifying, locating and valuing all your assets
  • Finding out about any debts or liabilities you have and making sure these are paid
  • Dealing with tax returns
  • Working out if Inheritance Tax is due and paying any amounts due
  • Applying for Probate if it is required (this depends on the size and complexity of your estate).  The Grant of Probate gives the Executors the right to deal with your estate.
  • Distributing the estate according to the Will and keeping adequate records and accounts
  • Transferring assets to trustees if necessary
  • Defending any litigation brought against your estate

Your Executors also act as trustees of any trust set up from your Will (for example for younger children or vulnerable adults, or for Property).  However, you can choose to appoint separate or additional trustees for this if you like.  You can also choose separate Executors for any business interests you have.

As you can see, there are a lot of responsibilities for the Executors in your Will – meaning it is critical that you appoint the right people.

How many executors do I need?

There is no limit but as they all have to work together and sign forms, most people have just one or two. If you are appointing friends or family, consider appointing two people as there can be limitations for sole executors that don’t apply to professionals.  If you do decide to nominate only one person, then it’s a good idea to have at least one substitute too.

Who should I choose?

The people you choose should be those you trust and that you feel can take on the role.  It’s a lot of work so make sure they are able to do that. An Executor must be over 18, ideally should live in the UK (for practical reasons) and must not be an undischarged bankrupt.

Lots of my customers ask me “Can a beneficiary also act as an Executor?” and the answer to this is “Yes”.  In fact, it often helps as they have an interest in getting the estate settled quickly.  But they must also act in the interests of all the other beneficiaries too – and provide them with accurate and timely information.

The majority of my clients choose to appoint their spouse or partner.  It makes sense because they are the ones who know most about your estate.  If you decide to do this, do consider that when you pass away it is an emotional time for those you leave behind, and they may not feel up to doing everything that is required.  So, I often advise you consider appointing an additional Executor to work alongside them and help them through all the work required. 

Should I get professional help?

Your Executors can also ask for help!  If they feel overwhelmed, want some support  or just need a little advice, they can contact me and ask about our Executor Assistance service.  This is designed to take away some of the administrative burden without a full probate package.

For a more complex estate (maybe including the sale of a property, or the setting up of trusts), you can consider using a professional.  If you choose to do that, there will obviously be a cost.  You should make sure you understand the potential for these charges as they can be high – sometimes up to 5% of the estate value.  You can choose your own professionals, or we can recommend specialists for you if you prefer. We work closely with Kings Court Trust, who are one of the UK’s leading estate administration specialists and highly regarded by their customers. They provide a fixed fee service so that you know exactly what you will pay up front and don’t have the uncertainty of hourly rates or contingency fees to consider. If you’d like to include them in your Will, or need their services after you have lost a loved one, just let us know and we can help you by putting you in touch with the right contacts for your needs.

Whoever you choose, the Executors in your Will have a very important job ahead.  Making your Will is just one step for you, and getting the right Executors in place means you can be assured they will take the right next steps on your behalf.

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