Beneficiary vs Executor
When you make a Will, you'll need to decide who your beneficiaries and your Executors are going to be.
Beneficiaries are the people who you want to inherit your assets and possessions (known collectively as your Estate) once you've passed away. You can name anyone you choose to be a beneficiary including your spouse, children, relatives, friends or charities as beneficiaries.
You can leave your Estate to your beneficiaries in certain proportions – for example, you could say that your Estate should be divided equally between your three children. You can also leave specific gifts to specific people – for instance, you could say that your niece Sarah should inherit your engagement ring.
Executors are the people who you want to finalise your Estate once you've passed away. Most people choose either one or two Executors, although four Executors can act at any one time. You might also name substitute Executors in case your first choice is unable to act. Typically, people choose their family members, a friend, or a professional Executor (such as a Solicitor or accountant) to carry out the role.
Being an Executor is a big job that should not be underestimated. It can involve applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation, calculating the value of your Estate, calculating any/all taxes owed, submitting tax forms to HMRC and paying any liabilities that are due, selling or transferring property or investments and distributing your Estate to the beneficiaries as set out in your Will.
Because of the work involved, and the fact that an Executor can be found personally liable if anything goes wrong, you need to think carefully about who you should choose to be your Executors. If you want to name a family member or friend, it's best to ask their permission first.
For more information see How to Be an Executor and How to Appoint Executors.
Beneficiary as an Executor
People often ask whether an Executor can be one of the beneficiaries named in the Will. The answer is yes, it's perfectly normal (and perfectly legal) for your Executors and beneficiaries to be the same people.
In fact, this is a common approach, as it's a good idea to ask someone you know and trust to be an Executor. It's therefore very likely that you will want to name at least one of your beneficiaries, and more often than not this will be your main beneficiary.
On the other hand, it might be that your Executor is not named as a beneficiary. One example might be that you want your children to inherit everything, but you would like your extremely competent friend to act as an independent Executor. Again, this is acceptable.
Beneficiary as a Witness
What a beneficiary should not do, however, is act as the witness to your Will nor should the beneficiary's spouse (or civil partner). Whilst this does not invalidate your Will, it means that the witness will no longer be entitled to receive their inheritance anymore.
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.