Protecting your loved ones when you die is essential. That’s why you must make writing and maintaining your will a top priority. While it may seem so at first glance, it doesn’t have to be confusing or overly complex. Once you’ve found a wills solicitor, you can start working on your will and choosing an executor.
In our short and simple guide, we will cover the basics surrounding choosing the ideal person to take on the responsibility of executorship, what their responsibilities will be and who you can appoint.
What is an executor?
Simply put, an executor is the person who you appoint to take responsibility for your estate when you have died. Despite the name, your estate is limited to property or houses you own.
It is the term given to everything that you own at your time of death. That could include money, vehicles or small valuable possessions, such as jewellery or art, or even your pets. You may choose to highlight the various elements of your estate when writing your will.
What does an executor do?
An executor has a variety of duties after someone has died. They will be responsible for:
- Following any specific directions set out by the deceased, such as how they wish to be buried or cremated
- Collecting in all the assets of the deceased’s estate
- Applying for a grant of probate
- Identifying the beneficiaries that are named within the will
- Closing any relevant bank or building society accounts associated with the estate
- Assuming responsibility for the assets and ensuring the beneficiaries receive them
- Deciding when and how to sell an inherited property so that beneficiaries get the best price
- Ensuring the correct Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax is paid
- Paying any outstanding debts incurred by the deceased or estate
Needless to say, taking on the role of executor is a major responsibility. Fortunately, the person, or people, charged with this task can claim reasonable expenses for this work. What’s more, they may choose to enlist the help of a probate solicitor for support.
What makes a good executor?
Before you appoint an executor for your will, you must first consider the type of person you want to choose. First and foremost, this person should be someone you trust beyond doubt. Following your death, this person will need to carry out your final wishes.
Should there be any disagreements regarding the will, the executor will need to find the fairest solution. They also need to take care of the nitty-gritty details, such as any relevant paperwork and admin tasks. For that reason, consider appointing someone you firmly believe is capable of doing all of the above well and in the best interests of your beneficiaries.
Who can be an executor?
Choosing the right executor (or executors) for your will is a big decision. However, it’s worth noting that anyone can be an executor. Take the time to think about who you trust with this task. To get you started, there are generally three different types of executor:
Why choose a family member as an executor?
When you’re making your will, perhaps the most popular choice is a family member. For instance, you may choose to appoint your adult children, a close niece or nephew, or a sibling as your executor. Ensure that whoever you choose is someone you trust.
Equally, you may choose to appoint your spouse or civil partner as they are your closest kin. Keep in mind that, following the end of the marriage or partnership, this person will no longer be your named executor, unless you specify otherwise.
Should you have someone in mind as a potential executor, take the time to speak to them first. As we have already noted above, there are various demanding tasks associated with being an executor. You need to be certain that the person you elect is happy to take on the responsibility.
Why choose a solicitor as an executor?
Choosing a solicitor as an executor is a sensible decision. This professional will be well-versed in wills and estate planning and in probate matters. This means that they are best-positioned to guide your beneficiaries through the process. In addition understanding any legal jargon, a probate solicitor will also be an expert in any property or tax-related issues.
There are two ways that a probate lawyer will take payment for their role as executor. First, you may agree on a rate for their hours, which will be charged to the estate. Alternatively a fixed fee may be agreed. How you decide to move forward is entirely up to you. Provision of payment will be written into your will so there will be no confusion after your death.
What is a Public Trustee?
Should you have no one to appoint as an executor, there is one final option. A Public Trustee is a government official who will step into this role, should there be no alternative. Often, this professional will simply take responsibility for your will and carry out its directions. They will also determine who the correct beneficiaries are for your estate.
Can you have more than one executor?
Yes you can have more than one executor. Since the scope of responsibility shouldered by an executor is broad, it could be a good idea to appoint more than one. The two individuals can divide up the tasks, depending on which of them suits their personal skill-set.
For example, you may wish to choose a family member and a solicitor as co-executors of your will. In those circumstances, the wills solicitor may take care of the legal side of the estate, while your family member can deal with your personal wishes for your beneficiaries.
How do you appoint an executor?
Once you have agreed with your executor that they are willing to act, provide their full name and address to your wills solicitor, who will ensure that the executor, or executors are appointed in your will.
For more information, you can speak to our friendly Wills team, who are happy to answer your questions.