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What is an Executor and how do I choose who to appoint?


What is an Executor and how do I choose who to appoint? These are questions that we are asked a lot, and that’s understandable.

The role of an Executor is an important one because an Executor is responsible for dealing with a person’s estate after their death.

In this blog, we explore the role of an Executor, why it is a good idea to have more than one, and how to decide who to appoint.

Who should I appoint?

Who you decide to appoint as your Executor is always a decision for you to make. Our advice to clients is that an Executor should be someone you trust and who has the skills to handle the tasks of dealing with your estate.

To arrive at your decision, a good starting point is to consider what an Executor will need to do. They must establish what you owned and owed at the date of your passing. They will also need to understand and consider the Inheritance Tax implications, obtain a Grant of Probate, settle any debts and expenses, close bank accounts and distribute your assets as set out in your Will.

Will I need more than one Executor?

Most people will appoint more than one Executor, and often they will be family members or close friends.

The important thing is that Executors must be able to work together when administering your estate. So, although there is the matter of who is best suited, it’s a good idea to think about the personalities involved. Would they work sensibly together, or would they disagree? Is it practical – especially if one lives away or is difficult to get hold of?

What is a Substitute Executor?

If you plan on appointing a single Executor, it is a good idea to appoint a substitute in the event of the named Executor being unable or unwilling to act. This is far more common than what you would expect.

Your named Executor, for example, could be unwell or sadly have lost their mental capacity to administer your Estate.

What ‘skills’ does an Executor need?

Executors can seek the support of a Probate Solicitor to help them and so they are not expected to understand all the intricacies of the law. They should, however, have the time and the ability to handle the administration and financial responsibility involved.

Most people know somebody who they can trust. However, if you cannot think of anyone, it may be best to appoint a professional (for example, a Solicitor) who can act as an Executor. In this capacity, they would work with your family members and named beneficiaries during the administration of your Estate.

Can a beneficiary be an Executor?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that a beneficiary named in the Will cannot act as an Executor. This is untrue. There is no reason why beneficiaries (such as your spouse, children or grandchildren) cannot also be Executors. It is entirely up to you. Executors cannot be under the age of 18 though.

What does an Executor do?

There are quite a few things that an Executor will need to do. They may, for example, have to apply for a Grant of Probate. This is a Court Order confirming that they have the authority to deal with your assets. In applying for a Grant of Probate, they must confirm the Inheritance Tax position for HMRC.

The forms can be quite overwhelming, especially at a time of loss. However, it is important that the forms are completed accurately. To make it even more pressing, HMRC issues penalties for the late filing of paperwork and if it discovers that assets were not fully disclosed.

Most Executors, although not all, are appointed as ‘Trustees’ of an Estate. What this means is that they hold assets for beneficiaries of a trust established by the Will. The trustees must ensure tax returns are completed and assets are suitably protected and/or invested.

If I have more than one Executor, who will act and when?

When there are several Executors, they may not all need to act. If all Executors agree, one or two of them can apply for a Grant ‘reserving power’ to the others. This might be a good option if an Executor has moved abroad or does not have the time to carry out the tasks. These Executors essentially become reserve Executors.

Final thoughts.

We hope you found this blog helpful. One of the most important things to take away is that an Executor is an honour, yet it also comes with a lot of responsibility. Your chosen Executor/s will need to be clear on their role and understand what is expected of them since they will be personally liable to your estate.

If you have any questions about making a Will, you may wish to arrange a free initial consultation with one of our Wills solicitors.

Likewise, if you have been appointed as an Executor and now have the task of administering an estate and need help, our solicitors can help with all the arrangements – such as identifying assets and liabilities and obtaining valuations, completing the Inheritance Tax return, making the application for the Grant of Probate, collecting the assets, paying the liabilities and distributing the Estate to those entitled. We can also advise on claims against the Estate and deal with probate property sales.