What does an executor do?
Your executor takes on the job of carrying out the instructions you leave in your Will when you die. It can be a difficult job even if your instructions and your property are quite simple – it’s not unusual for the process to take several months.
The job of an executor is sometimes complicated. For example they might have to decide when to sell your property so that the people who inherit the proceeds get the most money and make sure the right amount of Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax gets paid.
Who can be an executor of a Will?
Anyone aged 18 or above can be an executor of your will. There’s no rule against people named in your Will as beneficiaries being your executors. In fact this is very common.
Many people choose their spouse or civil partner or their children to be an executor. But that doesn’t mean they have to write them out of the Will.
Up to four executors can act at a time, but they all have to act jointly so it might not be practical to appoint that many people.
It’s a good idea, though, to choose two executors in case one of them dies before you do. For example, you might choose one family member and one professional, like a solicitor or accountant.
Professional executors tend to charge, but it can be helpful to have someone involved with specialist knowledge. You can appoint substitute executors to cover the situation if your first choice dies before you.
What makes a good executor?
If you leave something to a person in your Will, they can still be your executor – but they can’t be one of your Will’s official witnesses.
Above all you must choose somebody you trust. It’s going to be up to them to follow the instructions in your Will and to find fair solutions to any disagreements.
If your executor is good at paperwork and managing legal issues it will be helpful. And if you choose more than one executor, they may decide to divide up the work.
For example, if you appoint one of your children and a solicitor as your executors, they may decide that your child might be the best person to deal sensitively with other family members, while the solicitor handles the tax and legal work.
Family members as executors
If there’s someone in your family who you think will handle the job well, it can be a good idea to have them as an executor. For example, it’s very common to name one of your children, a niece or nephew or an adult grandchild.
Make sure you ask if they’re happy to do the job before you write your Will, though – if they say no, you’ll have to get your Will changed.
Think carefully before choosing your husband, wife or partner as your only executor. They’ll be dealing with your death, and by naming somebody else to be an executor with your husband, wife or partner, you can at least take the burden of the paperwork off their shoulders.
Solicitors, banks and accountants as executors
Choosing a solicitor as one of your executors makes a lot of sense, especially if sorting out your things is likely to be complicated – they’re experienced at the job and know their way around legal, tax and property issues.
If the financial side of your Will is especially complicated, it could be a good idea to choose a bank or accountant as one of your executors.
Of course, these professional specialists will charge you for their work.
This happens in one of two ways:
- by sending a bill for their time when your things have all been sorted out
- by taking a share of the total value of your estate – this will be written into your will.
Make sure you understand how your solicitor, bank or accountant will charge for being an executor and how much each option will cost before you commit yourself.
Please contact me on [email protected] or 0207 041 6069 to find out how I can best help you protect your family and your assets.