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Wills Guide: The role of an Executor and who to choose

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By Allison Crossman

Executors are those named in a Will who are responsible for administering the estate of someone who passes away. This is a hugely responsible role and it is well worth giving careful thought and consideration as to who you think will have the ability, time, and is willing to accept the responsibility of this role.   

What surprises most people is that you do not need the consent of the person you choose to name as an executor in your Will. Certainly it is sensible to speak to those you wish to appoint in this role to make sure they are happy to take up the appointment as, otherwise, when the time comes, they could step back from the appointment.

What does the Executor have to do?

The executor has the responsibility of dealing with the entire estate administration to distribution. It can be a demanding role involving not only practical issues, but can also involve complex financial/tax transactions. An Executor can be held personally liable and there are strict timescales to adhere to, particularly with regard to the payment of tax and submission of Tax Returns. Furthermore, the executor may also have a dual role as a Trustee, particularly if there are minor or vulnerable beneficiaries, so the duties and responsibilities may run for many years.

Who to choose?

It is sensible to choose more than one executor so that the responsibility can be shared. You should consider having a substitute executor named, so they can step in if one of your first named executors is unable to act.

Often, parents wish to choose their adult children as executors, but should bear in mind that they may find the responsibility too much at a time when they have suffered a bereavement.  Another consideration is if there has been, or may potentially be, any friction between children, then it would not be sensible to appoint them, as they will be required to work closely together throughout the administration and reach many unanimous decisions - which, at a time of bereavement, could cause additional stress and place pressure on possibly already delicate relationships.

You should also consider the age of the person(s) you wish to appoint. If they are a similar age to you or older, then they may be in their latter years and in ill health at the point of your death.

Consider also whether the person(s) is going to have the time to devote to the role. If they lead a busy family and/or working life, then it is probably not going to be sensible to appoint them.

What are the benefits of appointing a solicitor as my executor?

Due to the responsibility of the role, and to take the burden from your loved ones, you may wish to consider appointing a professional executor to handle the administration and as the point of contact for your family and beneficiaries. The further benefits are that they will have on hand expertise to handle all aspects of the administration, including acting as Trustees if required. They will also make certain that time limits are adhered to for maximising tax savings for claims of relief, in relation to the sale of property and shares. They will also be able to advise on potential Deeds of Variation to mitigate inheritance tax.

At TWM, our expert Private Client team are here to help you and we offer an initial consultation with no obligation to proceed, so that we can discuss with you the things you should consider and help you think about your choices and options.

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