How to Choose an Executor when Making a Will

04 October 2019

When you make a Will, you'll need to name one or more people to act as your Executor(s). These are the people responsible for winding up your affairs and carrying out the terms of your Will after you die. The role of Executor carries a lot of responsibility, so it's important to choose the right person for the job.

We explain the most important points to consider when deciding who to name as an Executor in your Will.

Understanding the Executor's Role

Before deciding who to appoint as your Executor, it's important to understand what exactly the role entails. The Executor has legal authority to administer your Estate after you die, and there's a significant amount of work involved in this task.

The main Executor's duties include (but are not limited to):

  • Arranging the funeral
  • Registering the death
  • Notifying organisations of the death (i.e. utility companies, HM Revenue & Customs, Department for Work and Pensions, etc.)
  • Applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate
  • Closing down bank accounts
  • Paying off outstanding liabilities (debts)
  • Gathering in all of the assets (i.e. stocks and shares) and calculating their value
  • Selling or transferring property
  • Calculating and paying taxes, including Inheritance Tax
  • Preparing the Estate Accounts
  • Distributing the assets to the Beneficiaries named in the Will

All of this work can inevitably take a lot of time. Depending on how complex your Estate is, your Executor could be faced with 9-12 months of legal and administrative work, or even longer if the Estate is complicated. What's more, they can be held personally liable for any mistakes they make during the administration of the Estate, even if these are genuine errors. So it's important that they are capable of carrying out the role properly.

Who Can Be Named as an Executor?

You can name almost anyone you like as the Executor of your Will. The only restrictions on who can be appointed as an Executor are:

  • They must be at least 18 years of age when you die
  • They must have sufficient mental capacity to carry out the role

Some people choose to appoint close friends or relatives, who are familiar with their circumstances and their wishes. Others opt instead to appoint a professional, such as a Solicitor or bank, to act as their Executor instead.

A professional Executor will be experienced and competent in dealing with the technical aspects of the role and they are completely impartial, which is why this is the preferred choice for some. There is also the added benefit of not placing this burden on a loved one, as the professional will take on all of the responsibility and associated liability for the Probate work. However, it's important to note that professional Executors will charge a fee for their service. A lay person is not paid for taking on the role of Executor.

If you choose to appoint a friend or relative as your Executor, it's a good idea to speak to them first to let them know your intentions and confirm that they're happy to take on the role. If they don't feel that this is something they'll be able to take on, then it's better for you to know this from the outset so that you can appoint someone else instead. If it is something that they are willing to do, then by having the conversation with them they'll be prepared and ready to act when the time comes.

How Many Executors Should I Name?

We would always recommend naming at least two Executors in your Will. You can name multiple Executors to act jointly alongside one another. Alternatively, you can name a sole Executor to act alone, with one or more substitute Executors who can step in to act if your first Executor is unable or unwilling to do so when the time comes.

There's no way of knowing what the future will hold, so it's a good idea to name multiple Executors so that you know matters will be taken care of. If you only name one Executor and they aren't able or willing to take on the role after you die, then you'll have no control over who is then appointed in their place.

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