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4 things to consider when choosing an executor for your Will

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 18 August 2015
  2. Wills and Probate
  3. 0 comments
Man talking to woman in wheelchair

It’s well known that making a Will is important, particularly if you own valuable assets (such as your own home) or want to bequeath onto a number of different people.

However, less celebrated is the importance of choosing an executor for your Will. The executors are the poor souls who will be in charge of making sure your wishes are carried out when you are gone.

Most people name family members or friends to execute their Will. You can also name a solicitor as an executor, although they will need to be paid for their work.

You don’t have to name an executor, but someone will need to step up and administrate the Will anyway. Naming an executor in your Will allows you to choose someone you trust, as well as avoiding the indecision or disagreements that can surface in the uncertainty left by a vague Will.

How many executors should I have?

The maximum number of executors you can name is 4 – more commonly, a testator (the person making the Will) will name 2-3 executors in his or her Will.

You could name only one if you have confidence in that executor, but it won’t hurt to name more – this helps spread the burden, as well as guarding against problems if your executor is unable or unwilling to take up the sword.

Who is willing to be an executor?

Being an executor is a significant responsibility, and you don’t want to drop that responsibility on someone who is unwilling or unable to take it.

After all, if you appoint a friend or family member, you are essentially asking them to carry out legal and financial tasks that they (most likely) have no experience in dealing with. Executing a Will can take months, or even years.

You are also asking them to do all of this for free, which is a lot to ask, particularly if they aren’t actually benefitting from the Will.

You should also inform them of your intention to name them as executors – this can be an awkward subject to broach, but it’s best to let them know, lest they be blindsided by responsibility following your passing.

Are they capable of executing the Will?

Your executors will probably need to wade through a proverbial mountain of paperwork to execute your Will.

Gathering up a testator’s estate and distributing it according to their wishes is no small task – your executors need to handle a number of different financial matters, between tracking down different accounts and shares, calculating how much each beneficiary should get and paying any inheritance tax.

They may find themselves having to interpret unclear aspects of the Will – for example, if one of the beneficiaries named in your Will passed away before you did, the executors will need to work out what should happen to that beneficiary’s share of the Will.

This is why you need to make sure your executors (or one of them, at least) is capable of taking care of these potentially complex tasks, as well as capable of understanding that they may to seek advice when a task is beyond them.

If your estate is likely to be particularly tricky – for instance, if you own shares and multiple properties – it would probably be a good idea to include a professional, such as a solicitor or accountant, among your executors. This brings us to our final consideration…

Should you hire a professional?

There are a number of different options for hiring professionals to act as executors – as mentioned above, you can name a solicitor or accountant as an executor, and they can take care of the legal and financial aspects of the Will respectively.

There are other specialist probate services on offer, with many high street banks offering comprehensive services.

The main advantage of these services is the expertise that they will provide – a working solicitor will be able to execute the Will more quickly and efficiently than someone with no experience and only their free time to devote to it.

The down side, of course, is that these services aren’t free – this cost will usually be a percentage of the value of the estate. A solicitor or accountant will ordinarily be less expensive than a bank’s probate services.

Any more questions about how to choose your executor? DAS Law’s Will writing service can help you make any tough decisions and put together your Will.

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