Executor guide

How to be an executor of a Will and how to appoint executors.

Top tips on how to be an executor

Being an Executor can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. It can take up a lot of your time, and you can be responsible for making important decisions – something many will find stressful. You may also be held personally liable for any mistakes, even if they are perfectly innocent, so the cost of getting it wrong can be high.

1. Make a to-do list

It is possible to name more than one Executor in a Will, so you may not be acting alone. If there are other Executors, get in touch with them and discuss what needs to be done. It is essential to consider what your duties are, and the timescales involved. Some of the priorities will be to locate the most up-to-date Will, register the death, arrange the funeral and secure any property that has now been left empty.

2. Find out if probate is needed

The assets that were owned by the deceased are known collectively as their Estate. This can include property, money and personal possessions. As an Executor, you will need to calculate the total value of the Estate. There are no hard and fast rules, but, if the value of the Estate exceeds £15,000, it is likely that Probate will be required. If so, you will need to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate. Once this has been issued, your legal authority to administer the Estate will be confirmed.

3. Be organised

Administering an Estate often involves a considerable amount of paperwork. Among other things, you may need to notify organisations about the death, submit tax returns and pay tax liabilities, transfer or sell property, and distribute the Estate to the beneficiaries of the Will. By being organised and keeping detailed records, you will make the process much easier for yourself. It will also reduce the likelihood of any mistakes being made.

4. Speak to everyone involved

To avoid conflict, be sure to talk to everyone who has an interest in the deceased person’s Estate, particularly the beneficiaries. Executors have a duty to act in the best interests of the Estate, and being open and transparent will minimise any concerns that are being harboured by others. Keep the channels of communication open by sending regular updates on what you are doing, and the reasons for any delays.

5. Seek expert advice

Obtaining Probate and administering an Estate is not always simple. The Probate process can be very time consuming and often takes between 70 to 100 hours of work to complete. For more complex Estates, it can take even longer. If you would like some support, you can always ask a legal professional for help. A Probate Solicitor or specialist can tell you whether or not Probate is needed, and can administer the Estate on your behalf.

Top tips for appointing executors of a Will

An Executor is the person who will be responsible for administering your Estate after you pass away. This includes applying for a Grant of Probate (if needed), selling and transferring assets, paying off any liabilities, and distributing your Estate according to the wishes set out in your Will.

Being an Executor is an important role that carries considerable responsibilities. Not everybody will want to be an Executor, so before making a Will, it’s a good idea to think carefully about who you are going to nominate as Executor/s. To help you decide, here are some top tips for appointing Executors:

1. Talk to your chosen executor before making a Will

When making a Will, you will be asked to choose up to four Executors. Before the Will is created, you should have a conversation with each of your chosen Executors to ensure they are happy to take on the role. Being an Executor can be a lot of work, and some people might prefer that you did not nominate them. If they are willing to accept, the fact that you have spoken with them means that it will not come as a surprise in the future.

2. Appoint trusted individuals

An Executor will need to deal with your personal assets, which can hold significant financial and emotional value. Furthermore, Executors have a legal duty to act in the best interests of the Estate, rather than any personal interest. They may not even be beneficiaries of the Will. For these reasons, you must appoint Executors who you trust, and who you can rely upon to deal with your affairs responsibly.

3. Does your chosen executor have the time?

Being an Executor is often a very time consuming role. We estimate that on average, the Probate process takes about nine-to-twelve months to complete. Even if Probate is not needed, there are many other tasks to carry out such as registering the death, arranging and paying for the funeral, and informing business and organisations that you have died. The position of Executor can become a full-time job if the Estate is very large, so you need check that your Executor has enough time to commit to the role.

4. Consider using a professional executor

Some Estates will be particularly complex. For instance, there may be Inheritance Tax to pay, properties to sell, or foreign assets to locate. This can require specialist knowledge that can be above and beyond the abilities of a lay-person.

There can also be conflict between family members who may have differing opinions on the correct approach to take. If you think having a neutral third party to deal with your Estate would be beneficial, you can always nominate a legal professional in your Will to act as an Executor.

Alternatively, your Executors may seek help from specialist Probate Solicitors after your death to assist with the administration of the Estate. Having the help of a legal professional can give you the peace of mind that an Estate is being administered correctly, removing the responsibility from family and friends.

5. What if your executor cannot act?

Sometimes your chosen Executor will no longer be able to carry out the role, perhaps because of illness or the loss of mental capacity. Or, of course, it may be that your Executor has died before you. In these situations it is important that you update your Will to reflect the change in circumstances. Otherwise when you die, one of your Beneficiaries will be asked to step in as an Administrator. This may not be the person you would have wanted to deal with your affairs.

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