Everything you need to know about choosing your executor

By Martin Brieger, Site Editor.

Your executor is the individual you allocate to sort out your estate when you die and carry out the instructions in your will. You can select whoever you wish and it can be more than one person, but it is important so ensure you get it right.

 

The duties of an executor

This person will take on the job of following the instructions you leave in your will when you die. It can be quite a complicated job, even if you consider your estate and wishes to be relatively simple, and the process can take up to several months.

 

The reason this job can sometimes be difficult is that your executor might have to decide when to sell your property so the people who are going to inherit the proceeds receive the most money. They will also need to ensure the correct amounts of inheritance tax and other taxes, get paid correctly.

 

Can anyone be your executor?

Essentially, anyone who is aged 18 or above can be an executor. There is also no rule stating that if a person is named as a beneficiary in your will, they can’t be your executor – in fact, this is a common occurrence.

 

Many opt for their spouse, civil partner or children to be executors, but that doesn’t mean they have to be excluded from the will.

 

You can select up to four executors to act at a time, but they will all have to act jointly so this might not be the most practical option to appoint that many people. It is, however, a good idea to choose two executors just in case one of them dies before you do. For example, you might want to choose one professional (e.g. a lawyer or accountant) and one family member. Professional executors tend to charge a fee, but it can be helpful to involve someone who has some sort of specialist knowledge. You can also appoint substitute executors to cover your will if your first choice passes on before you. 

 

What makes a good executor?

Over and above all, you must choose someone you trust as it is going to be up to them to follow your instructions and find fair solutions to any potential disagreements. It would be especially helpful if your executor is good at managing legal issues and paperwork. 

 

If you choose more than one individual, they might decide to divide up the work. For example, if you appoint one of your children as well as a lawyer, they might decide your child might be best to deal sensitively with other family members, while the professional individual takes on the tax and legal work.

 

Appointing family members as executors

If there is a member of your family who you think would handle the job well, it could be a good idea to select them as an executor. It is common to name one of your children, a niece or nephew, or grandchild over the age of 18. Think carefully before choosing your partner or spouse as your sole executor. They will already be dealing with your death, so by naming someone else on top of your partner, you can at least take the burden of legal work off their shoulders. 

 

Ensure you check if these individuals are happy to do the job before you create your will – if they say no, you’ll have to get the document changed.

 

Appointing lawyers, banks and accountants as executors

It makes sense to select a lawyer as one of your executors – especially if your wishes are complicated – as they are experienced at the job and know their way around issues such as legal matters, taxes and properties.

 

If the financial aspect of your document is more complex, it would be a good idea to appoint a bank or accountant as one of your executors. Naturally, professional specialists will charge a fee for their work, which will occur in one of two ways:

  • They will send a bill for their hours when everything has been sorted out

  • They will take a share of the total value of your estate, which will be written into your will

Ensure you understand how this individual will charge, and how much each option will cost before committing yourself.

 

What to do if you don’t have anyone to appoint as your executor

As a last resort, you will be able to appoint a government official as your executor if there’s nobody else who is able to do it. The most common situation where this person will step in is if you leave your estate to one person, but that person cannot act as an executor themselves. For example, if they have a disability which means they are not capable of managing legal and financial affairs.

 

Once you have chosen your executor, ensure you confirm their full name and address in your will. Make sure these details are correct as if they cannot be found, they might not be able to do their job.

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