When it comes to matters of wills and estates, understanding your role and responsibilities in the process is crucial. Whether you're in the process of creating your own will or have been entrusted with the important role of executor, this article is here to guide you through it all, in plain and simple terms.
By the end of this article, you'll have a clear understanding of what it means to be an executor of a will and how the role fits into the broader picture of estate planning management.
What Is an Executor of a Will?
An executor of a will is a person appointed by the person who created the will (sometimes called the "testator") to carry out their final wishes after they've passed away. You've probably heard the term "executor" used in relation to making a will and the probate process.
When a person makes a will, they name their chosen executor. This is the person they trust to handle their affairs when they die, such as division of assets (property, money and possessions) and arrangements for children.
The title of "executor" might vary depending on where you are. In the UK, you might also hear them referred to as "personal representatives" or "PRs." They’re just different names for the same thing.
What Do Executors of a Will Do?
An executor is the person or entity responsible for making sure a person's wishes are carried out smoothly and according to the law after they die.
Common will executor duties include:
Registering the death
Getting copies of the will
Arranging the funeral
Taking responsibility for property and post
Valuing the estate
Sorting out finances
Dealing with assets like joint accounts, jointly owned property, pensions, life insurance and debts
Paying any Inheritance Tax
Applying for probate
Distributing the estate
The job of executor is an important one, and the process can often be long and drawn out, with complexities dotted along the way, so it’s important to choose your executor carefully.
Who Can Be An Executor Of A Will?
An executor of a will can be a family member or close friend. It is not uncommon for people to appoint their husband, wife or civil partner to be an executor. Other people may choose to appoint a professional as an executor like a wills, trust and probate solicitor. This is a particularly appealing choice for those with complex estates, individuals who would prefer added legal oversight or for a neutral third party to oversee probate.
Children can also be executors of a will, however at least one executor must be over the age of 18 when they apply for probate.
Can Beneficiaries To Wills Also Be Executors
Yes. It’s perfectly fine, and indeed very common, for people named in a will as beneficiaries to be chosen as executors to.
If children under 18 are named as beneficiaries or have life interest in any assets under the will as well as being named as executors, then two executors are required.
Can You Choose More Than One Executor
You can have up to four executors acting at one time. It is recommended to choose at least two executors in case one of them dies before you do or they do not want to be an executor (renounce probate) when the time comes. That way, other executors can deal with your estate.
You can also name a replacement executor in your Will in the event one of the executors can’t act and appoint substitutes if an executor dies before you.
It’s important to think carefully about how many executors you choose to act on your behalf. When the time comes, they will have to agree and make decisions together. Naturally, the more people in the mix, the more difficult and drawn out the process might become. However, this all depends on who you appoint and their relationships with each other.
How Do I Choose An Executor?
The only requirement for an executor is that they should be someone you trust to handle your assets and make sure your wishes are carried out in accordance with your will.
Aside from that, it is helpful to choose an executor who is organised, able to fill in paperwork and has a basic understanding of financial matters. Your executor doesn’t have to be a legal professional, like a solicitor, as they can seek help and advice throughout the probate process should they need it.
It is also a good idea to make sure your chosen executor feels comfortable with, and able to take on, the role when the time comes. There are a lot of legal responsibilities to being an executor, and the process can take a long time to complete in some cases. Before you name anyone as an executor in your will you should ask them if they feel able to do so.
It is important to note that an executor can renounce their role or ask someone else to do it for them. They can do this while you’re still alive, by asking you to change your Will. If they change your mind after you’ve passed away they have four options if they don’t want to be an executor: Renunciation, Power Reserved, Attorney Grant or they can instruct a probate solicitor to handle everything for them.
Getting Help From A Wills & Probate Solicitor
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of choosing an executor, or you’ve been named as an executor and don’t know what to do next, don’t panic. You don't have to go it alone. Many people seek the guidance of a solicitor in these situations.
At Lawhive, we help you find and access affordable, fast, and reliable legal help from the very best wills, trust and probate solicitors in the UK. In less than 5 minutes, you can receive a fixed-fee quote tailored to your specific needs, so you can sort your legal issue with confidence, knowing that you have expert support every step of the way.
Your estate planning and probate matters deserve attention, and Lawhive is here to assist you on your journey. Don't hesitate to take the next step in securing your future and the future of your loved ones. Get your fixed-fee quote from a probate solicitor at Lawhive today.