Can I name a beneficiary as an executor?

11 August 2021

When making a will, people often ask whether an executor can also be a beneficiary. The answer is yes, it's perfectly normal (and perfectly legal) to name the same person as an executor and a beneficiary in your will.

What is the difference between a beneficiary and an executor?

Beneficiaries are the people who you want to inherit what you own (known as your estate) after you die. You can name anyone you want as a beneficiary including your spouse, children, relatives, friends or charities.

There are different types of gifts that you can leave to your beneficiaries. You can leave a specific sum of money, a specific item, or a share of what's left in your estate after all debts and other gifts have been paid.

Executors are the people who you want to administer your estate after you've died. Most people choose either one or two executors, although up to four executors can act at once. It's a good idea to choose more than one executor, or to name a substitute executor, in case your first choice is unable to act. Typically, people appoint family members, friends, or a professional executor (like a solicitor or accountant) to carry out the role of executor.

Choosing your executor

Being an executor is a big job that should not be underestimated. The main duties of an executor include:

  • corresponding with anyone involved in the estate, including those inheriting from the estate, those owed money from the estate and any service providers
  • applying to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate
  • calculating the value of the estate
  • calculating tax, submitting tax forms to HMRC and paying any tax that's due
  • settling any outstanding debts on the Estate
  • selling or transferring property and other assets
  • distributing the estate to the beneficiaries named in your will

As you can see, there's a lot of legal, tax and administrative work involved, and the executor can be found personally liable if anything goes wrong. So, it's important to think carefully about who to appoint as your executor. Your executor should not only be someone you trust, but also someone that is capable of undertaking this task when the time comes.

What's more, your chosen executor does not have to take on the role if they don't want to. For this reason, if you want to appoint a family member or friend, it's best to speak to them about this first.

For more information see how to choose an executor when making a will.

Naming a beneficiary as an executor

Naming one of your beneficiaries as the executor of your will is a common approach. It's very likely that you will want to name at least one of your beneficiaries as your executor, and it's not unusual for this to be your main beneficiary.

On the other hand, it might be that your executor is not named as a beneficiary. Maybe you want your children to inherit everything, but you would like your extremely competent friend to act as an independent executor. Again, this is perfectly acceptable to do.

Naming a beneficiary as a witness

What a beneficiary should not do, however, is act as the witness to your will. Neither should the beneficiary's spouse (or civil partner). If a beneficiary acts as a witness, it won't invalidate your will but it will mean that the beneficiary is no longer entitled to receive their inheritance.

You should to sign the will in front of two independent witnesses. These witnesses will then need to sign the will (witness it) in front of you.

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