What is an Executor?


When you are making your Will, one of the crucial questions to answer will be, who will take care of all this when I’m not here? No matter how clearly you state your intentions and wishes for your assets, you are going to need someone in charge of carrying out these instructions. That person is your Executor




What is an Executor?

An Executor literally ‘Executes’ the instructions and wishes contained within your Will. They become the manager of your bank accounts, savings, property and other assets, and are responsible for distributing these things in accordance with your wishes. Your Executor needs to be someone you know and trust who is competent to do all this.

Who can be an Executor?

Being an Executor can be time consuming and can involve a lot of responsibility, so think carefully about who you name. Any adult over the age of 18 can be an Executor for you, and it doesn’t matter if they are named in your Will either. Many people choose their husband or wife, or one or more of their children to act as Executor.

You can appoint up to four people to be your Executors, but bear in mind that they will all have to be present together to carry out Executor duties. This could end up over complicating matters and could slow down the process, so most people stick to one or two. Having two Executors named in your Will can be a good idea in case one dies before you do.

Executors tend to fall into two broad categories:

  • Family members: If you have someone in your family you think is up to the job, talk to them about being an Executor. Think carefully about selecting your spouse or partner as your Executor; remember they will be dealing with grief and may find this an unwelcome burden. Sometimes younger people are more competent to cope with the stresses of administration, so consider nieces, nephews and children instead. Get their OK before writing your Will, otherwise you’ll have to get it changed.
  • Professionals: People who provide Executor services in a professional capacity will usually charge, but it can be money well spent, particularly if you foresee things getting complicated. Having a solicitor on board can be very helpful for your loved one, particularly if there are likely to be a lot of taxation or property issues involved. As well as solicitors, accountants and banks can act as Executors. Make sure you know how much they will charge for their services before making a commitment.

If you’re planning to have two Executors, it can be helpful to have one of each type. The family member will be good for dealing with sensitive issues and resolving conflicts, whereas the professional can help out with the tax forms and other paperwork.

If you find yourself in a position where you really have nobody who can be your Executor, and you do not have the funds to hire a professional, there is help available. A government official called the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee can step in to help;

What does the Executor do?

Your Executor is making a big commitment. Administering an Estate, even if it’s a small one, can involve quite an investment of time and effort, and can take up to a year or more to sort out. If things aren’t done properly, it is the executor who is liable, so it’s important to let your Executors know precisely what it is they’re signing up to.

The main duties of an Executor will include:

  • Locating the Will and supporting documents: The Executor needs to obtain the original Will, not a copy, which may mean searching the deceased’s possessions or chasing up solicitors for help. By storing your Will on Lexikin, you can be sure that things are made as simple as possible for your Executor(s).
  • Obtaining the death certificate: This is going to be crucial for moving forward with the Estate administration, so the Executor should be the recipient and keeper of the death certificate.
  • Attending to the funeral: The Executor does not have to organize the funeral alone, but they should take the lead on getting arrangements organized.
  • Applying for Probate: The Executor will need to complete all the relevant documentation to apply for Probate. If there is no Will, they will need to apply for Letters of Administration.
  • Notifying relevant parties: The Executor will be responsible for informing friends and relatives of the death, including any beneficiaries of the Will. They will also need to contact relevant organisations to freeze accounts and stop charges building up.
  • Valuing an Estate: Performing a valuation of all the assets of the deceased, with expert input where required.
  • Assessing liabilities: Taking action to evaluate all liabilities and debts owing on the Estate.
  • Paying inheritance tax: The Executor will need to raise the funds required to pay any inheritance tax due. The grant of Probate will not be issued until this is done, so it needs to be a high priority.
  • Accessing assets: Once the grant of Probate is issued, the Executor needs to send this to banks and other financial organisations to release the deceased’s assets.
  • Settling debts: Once the Executor has access to the assets, all debts on the Estate must be paid off before any further action is taken.
  • Distribution of legacies: Once all assets are accounted for and all debts settled, the Executor can distribute legacies to all beneficiaries named in the Will.

An Executors job is certainly not straightforward, but with the right support in place and some organisation on your part, your Executor should be able to handle all their duties effectively. If you have a particularly complicated Estate, with a lot of disparate assets to account for, you may wish to recommend your Executor appoints a solicitor early in the process to avoid expensive or stress invoking mistakes.

Dealing with death is never a pleasant experience, but sometimes having a job to do can help people to cope a little better. Pick your Executors carefully, and be sure you’ve given them the low down on what they’re signing up to so that they’re prepared to take responsibility when the time comes.

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