What is an executor of a Will?
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a tough process emotionally, but without an executor in place, it can turn into a logistical nightmare. Executors play a crucial role in dealing with your property and assets when you die. Here we explain what they do and how you can choose one for your Will.
What is an executor of a Will?An executor is a person named in your Will who is legally responsible for dealing with your estate after you have passed away. As such, executors need to ensure that the instructions in your Will are carried out and that all legal and financial obligations are taken care of to the best of their ability. Typically a family member will be named as an executor, but this is not a legal requirement, and if the executor hasn’t been named, a court will appoint one to fulfil the role.
What is the role of the executor of a Will?In what is often referred to as ‘winding down the estate’, an executor will carry out the following duties:
- Registering your death with a GP or doctor
- Taking responsibility for your property and assets (including insuring said properties and assets)
- Collecting debts and selling assets owed
- Paying outstanding taxes and bills
- Carrying out the instructions in the Will (e.g. distributing inheritance)
- Arranging the funeral - executors don’t need to be involved with this, but given that they have access to your financial accounts (and by proxy any funeral funds), it often makes sense for them to help out
- Valuing the estate - if an item is particularly valuable, it’s recommended that a professional is used to ascertain value, but an executor can take this on themselves if they wish to
- Informing people of your death - there is no legal requirement to tell people not named in the Will about your death, but some executors will take it upon themselves to get in touch with those who were close to you
What power does an executor of a Will have?The executor of a Will has power over your finances and personal documents after you have died. This comes into effect once the executor has applied for probate and finishes once their duties have been carried out. Executors do not have the power to arbitrate in the case of disputes over the Will and must act in the best interest of the estate. The latter is part of the statutory duty of care which ensures that irresponsible executors cannot spend the money left in the Will on themselves without reason.
Who can be an executor of a Will?It is usually advised that the executor of your Will is someone close to you as they can turn down the position before starting the process, or at any time during it. To avoid this scenario, some people name alternative executors in case this happens or to allow for a situation in which the executor cannot carry out the task. If an alternate isn’t named, the court will appoint a replacement of their choosing. There’s no rule against your executor also being someone named as a beneficiary in your Will, so you don’t need to worry about finding someone impartial to be your executor. The only requirement for someone to be an executor is that they’re over 18 and both physically and mentally able to take on the task. Being an executor can be a difficult job due to the legal complexities and the sheer amount of time it takes to complete the process, so it’s worth making sure someone is aware that you’d like to ask them to be your executor. In some instances where people can’t find someone appropriate to be an executor, a professional executor can be appointed. Using a professional executor can be helpful if the estate is complicated.
Naming multiple executorsWhen more than one executor is named, the executors must agree who will take on the role. Up to four executors can be named, and these executors sometimes choose to work together to complete the probate by dividing up the tasks. If only one executor applies for probate, they must prove that they’ve tried to get in touch with all of the others to let them know the situation. People who do not wish to take on the role of an executor have three options. Firstly, they can give up their right to apply for probate (known as renunciation) which completely removes them from the process. The second option is to reserve the right to apply for probate at a later date if another executor cannot be found or can’t finish their job. The final option is to ask a lawyer to act on behalf of the executor.
In summaryExecutors shoulder a significant burden in what are often trying times, but doing so enables everyone to come to terms with their loss and move forward. Being an executor is an arduous yet vital task as it ensures that your wishes are carried out after you’ve died to the greatest possible degree.
Got more questions about being an executor? Speak to us today to find out more! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org