Choosing the right Executor can be one of the major stumbling blocks in making your Will. You’ll need to carefully consider all the possible tasks involved in administering your estate, and then decide who’s the best person to do it.
Choosing the Executor of your Will is one of the most important aspects of the process. In some cases, naming the right person can even have a ‘make or break’ effect on how easily your estate can be administered and how successfully your carefully outlined wishes in your Will will be fulfilled.
Your first instinct may naturally be to choose one of your nearest and dearest to be an Executor of your Will. However, before settling on this, it’s worthwhile taking the time to consider the responsibilities involved for an Executor in relation to the complexity of your estate.
What is an Executor and what do they do?
An Executor is the person you specifically name in your Will to administer your estate. You may have also heard them referred to as a Personal Representative, or trustee. You can name more than one Executor in your Will (up to a maximum of 4), and it’s worth noting that you will need at least two executors if you are naming any children as beneficiaries in your Will.
Your Executor(s) will be invited by you to collect any information they require about what assets you have, allowing them to obtain a value for each asset in your estate. They will then likely need to apply for the Grant of Probate, which will give them legal authority to deal with those assets and distribute them in accordance with your Will.
The responsibilities of any Executors normally commence immediately upon your death and do not end until all your liabilities have been handled appropriately and the beneficiaries of your Will have been paid in full. In some cases, this means that the role of an Executor does not even for months or even years after your death.
Importantly, Executors are personally liable for their actions involved in administering your estate. This means that if they make any decisions or oversights that result in your liabilities not being handled (such as payment of taxes) or the value of your estate being incorrectly diminished for your beneficiaries, your Executor may need to make good these losses out of their own pocket.
Given the level of responsibility expected of your Executors, it is easy to see why choosing your Executor is a decision that deserves an extra level of consideration.
How to choose the right Executor
Regardless of whether you are more inclined towards choosing a family member or another person to be an Executor of your Will, the person you choose should be:
- Someone you trust: given the level of responsibility and reliability required from an Executor, this is probably the key qualification your Executor must have.
- Someone who knows you well: your Executor will need to have a detailed understanding of not only your wishes, but also your work or business arrangements and personal circumstances. This will help them understanding the scope and scale of the role they will be playing in administrating your estate.
- Someone respected within your family and will work well with your family:
- Able to get along with any other Executors: if you have more than one executor, make sure that they will work well with one another when getting on with the job. Asking people to work together who don’t get on or don’t know one another well can cause unnecessary difficulties and delays.
Special considerations to make when choosing an Executor
When choosing an Executor, it’s worth remembering that you can also name appointed replacements, so if one of the Executors cannot act for any reason you can nominate would who replace them.
You can also appoint Executors that have responsibility for handling specific areas of your estate. This can be useful if you have business interests, or any other interests or assets that demand special knowledge or skills to deal with, allowing you to consider appointing an Executor that has a particular skillset to deal with those aspects of your estate.
If you are benefitting children in your estate, you may not wish for them to take their inheritance until they reach a certain age (such as 18, 21, or 25). This means that the Executor will be a trustee for those children and will be under a duty to look after their money for them until they are old enough to receive it. This is where some consideration on who will work well with your family both now and in the future is really important. They don’t need to be financial experts as they can (and are in fact, recommended to) take financial advice, though knowing your Executors’ skillsets can be relevant to your decision too.
Choosing a professional executor
There are some scenarios where having a professional Executor, such as an accountant or solicitor, is advised. This isn’t required in most cases, but it can be useful if you have strained or complicated family dynamics and you are worried how your estate will be handled.
Family matters aside, appointing a professional executor can also be helpful if you have a complicated estate, or even for the simple reason that you already have a good working relationship with a professional advisor and you want them to look after your family and its interests in a time of great sadness and emotion.
If you are interested in appointing a professional executor in your Will, it is always worthwhile discussing the matter with your loved ones to understand their thoughts and feelings. Where Celtic Law has acted as a professional executor for clients, we also encourage you to consider having a family member also appointed as an Executor wherever appropriate, giving your family the comfort of being involved in administering your Will while also taking some of the pressure off.