When making your will you need to appoint at least one executor who will be responsible for the important task of dealing with your estate on your death. Deciding who to appoint is one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make so you need to consider your options carefully. James Sawers, wills, probate and trusts lawyer with MacDonald Oates LLP Solicitors in Midhurst, explains what you need to think about.
‘Administering an estate can be a complex process. When choosing an executor, it is important to select someone you know well and who is prudent and financially trustworthy. You need to have confidence that anyone you appoint will be able to deal with your property and assets and will distribute your estate according to your wishes,’ says James Sawers.
‘It is also important that you have confidence in the ability of your chosen executors to handle the significant legal responsibilities that come with the role, and that you ensure they are happy to take these on when the time comes.’
What will my executor be expected to do?
Your executor has the legal authority to administer your estate from the time of your death. They will be required to apply for a grant of probate and to comply with their legal responsibilities and administrative duties, including collecting in money and property, paying any debts and inheritance tax, distributing your assets to beneficiaries and preparing estate accounts. Your executor may also be required to act as a trustee if your will creates any trusts.
Can anyone be an executor?
Anyone can act as an executor, so long as they are at least 18 years old, not bankrupt and are mentally capable. There is no rule against appointing someone who is also named as a beneficiary in your will, although in these circumstances you may want to think about appointing another executor to act alongside them, such as a solicitor or other professional person, to ensure your other beneficiaries have confidence that everything is being handled as it should be.
How many executors are required?
You can select up to four executors if you wish, but in most cases the appointment of two executors is recommended to cover the possibility that one of them may die before the administration of your estate can be completed. There are also some circumstances where the appointment of two executors must be made, including where you intend to leave money or property to beneficiaries under the age of 18.
Who should I appoint?
If you are married, in a civil partnership, or in a long-term relationship, you may decide to appoint your spouse or partner as an executor perhaps along with another relative or family friend.
If you are not currently in a long-term relationship, you may decide to appoint a relative or friend, and then ask a professional person to take up the position of your second executor.
Careful consideration should be given to who you appoint. You need to select people you know are honest, dependable and trustworthy. It is not a good idea, for example, to name a child as one of your executors if you know that they struggle to keep their own finances in order or if they have a prior conviction for fraud or theft.
You also need to think about the age and health of your proposed executors. If they are a similar age to you, or do not enjoy the best of health, you need to face the very real possibility that they may die before you. You also need to consider the practicalities of appointing someone who lives far away, particularly if they will need to make frequent visits to the area you lived in prior to your death in order to deal with your affairs effectively.
Finally, you need to ensure that whoever you choose to appoint is willing to take on the role. If you fail to do this, there is a possibility that your named executors may decline to act after you have died. In this case, one of your beneficiaries will usually have to apply to the court for permission to administer your estate which may not be what you or they would have hoped for.
To find out more about making an effective will, and how wisely appointing executors can help safeguard the administration of your estate, please contact a member of our Wills, Probate and Trusts team at our Petersfield office (01730 268211) or our Midhurst office (01730 816711).