An executor is a person who will carry out the instructions in your will. That person will be responsible for gathering all your financial information and working out what your debts and liabilities are. The executor will deal with sending the appropriate notification to all the institutions holding your assets to inform them of your death. The executor is responsible for informing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs of your death and submitting the inheritance tax account. They also must deal with income tax returns that are due, especially where the deceased was self-employed or paid tax on a self-assessment basis. They then must pay any tax liabilities outstanding or due because of the death. Then they will apply for probate. The probate registry will issue a document called a grant of probate. This gives the executor the legal right to administer your estate.
After applying for probate, the executor will collect your assets from the banks and other institutions and sell what needs to be sold. From the funds, they will pay your debts, and settle your liabilities. Then it is time for them to distribute the balance to the beneficiaries mentioned in your will. If any beneficiaries are missing, the executor must track them down using companies that specialise in tracing beneficiaries. If any beneficiary is under the age of majority, the executor may have to hold the funds in trust until that beneficiary reaches the age of 18.
You can see from all of this that it is quite a big responsibility for anyone appointed as an executor. You must discuss it in advance with the person that you wish to appoint to make sure that they are prepared for the work involved and will have the time for it.
You can appoint anyone over 18 as an executor but you should make sure it is someone mature enough to handle the role. You can choose to have a family member, friend or a professional executor, or a combination. A professional executor will charge for their services, but it is often worthwhile to relieve family members of the huge burden of administering the estate at such a difficult time. You can check the current charges of the professional you would like to appoint as your executor but remember that they will probably not be able to give an advance quote since they won’t know exactly when their services will be needed.
The types of professionals that are appointed as executors vary but solicitors’ firms are the most common. However, if you have a good relationship with other professionals, such as your accountant, financial adviser, or bank, you can appoint them, but always check with them first to find out their terms and conditions and if they are willing to accept the appointment. Be wary of companies that offer you a free will for in exchange for appointing them as your executor. Make sure their terms are acceptable to you. Don’t be swayed by the free or reduced-price will.
Companies cannot be appointed executors, except for a special type of company called a trust corporation. It is allowed by law to act as the executor and perform the role and tasks of an executor.
You can have family members or friends as your executors, even if they are also beneficiaries under your will. If you are appointing a family member, make sure you appoint someone who will remain neutral if any disputes break out over your estate, especially if you have a large family or if there are fractured relationships. Although a person does not need to have any particular qualifications to be an executor, you should try to appoint someone who is financially astute. You could also use a mix of family members and professionals as executors.
Weigh up the balance between using a professional who charges a fee and will get the job done or having a family member who will not usually be paid and so may not like to take on the role if there’s going to be a lot of work involved. If your family situation is complicated, you should use a professional or a mix of professional and family.
The role of an executor can be a time-consuming and onerous one and comes with a great deal of responsibility. Before you appoint anyone as your executor, make sure they are willing to undertake the role. If you take them by surprise, they might not accept the role when the time comes.
Please contact us if you would like to make a will or if you want some advice on who to appoint as your executor.