Choosing the right executors to manage your estate is not necessarily as straightforward as you might think.
First of all, let’s look at the role of an executor
An executor is somebody you have named in your Will who will be responsible for ensuring your estate is handled in the way you wish. As an aside, this is why keeping your Will up to date is so crucial – executors need to know your current wishes and be the person you would choose now to do the role, not somebody you might have chosen ten plus years ago.
That might sound easy enough, but the role can be very time consuming. There is a lot of paperwork to be handled, and there are likely to be telephone conversations and online submissions too.
The key responsibilities of an executor include the dispersal of any property in line with your wishes – whether that is selling the property and paying the income to your beneficiaries, or changing the ownership of the property, following your death.
All debts and taxes need to be paid from the proceeds of your estate – that is your whole estate – bank accounts, investments, property, chattels and so on.
They are also responsible for arranging your funeral.
We will talk about this in more detail another time, but if you can include your last wishes for your funeral in your Will it is very helpful for your executors.
Any remaining money or investments, plus your personal possessions, should be shared out in accordance with your Will.
If your final wishes are not carried out correctly, any outstanding bills/debts aren’t settled, or tax is not paid, your executors will be liable, so it is a big ask.
So, who do you choose?
We always recommend choosing somebody who is good on detail. They aren’t put off by filling in plenty of forms, and liaising with institutions like the Inland Revenue (HMRC), banks, utility companies etc. These companies can be very demanding, and patience is definitely a good characteristic!
Having good communication skills is also a very helpful trait – including with your loved ones.
Contrary to popular belief, you can choose one or more of your beneficiaries to be your executor. In fact, that is quite a common choice. The upside of choosing a beneficiary is that they are likely to know more about you, your estate and your loved ones.
However, the downside, is that they are likely to be more emotionally involved. Are they going to be in the right state of mind to arrange your funeral and handle your affairs? Or will they be too vulnerable?
Wills can often be acrimonious, so you also need to consider if your decisions are going to impact on your loved ones.
If you have a business, or share in one, that will add an additional layer of complexity.
Again, you need to be confident that your chosen executor is capable of, and willing to, handle that.
There is no magic number for executors, but one or two are common. Regardless of the number you choose, we recommend you have a reserve executor named in your Will. Should one of your executors be unwell, or unable to fulfil their duties, the reserve can step up. Quite often a reserve executor is a professional, such as a lawyer, accountant or trusted family adviser.
We encourage you to talk the process through with your chosen people, before appointing them. Ensure they understand what is involved in being an executor, and that they are willing to take on the role.
If you would like to talk through the role of an executor, or make changes to your Will, please contact us on 01344 875 310.