When you make a will, you need to appoint someone to carry out your wishes, and sort out your estate. It’s an important role, and involves a lot of financial work, including paying taxes. So, you need to choose someone you trust and is capable of doing the job.
Keep it in the family
Many people appoint members of their family as their executors; a spouse, partner or adult children (executors must be aged over 18.) You can appoint executors who will benefit from your will. Executors can also witness a will as long as they are not beneficiaries.
You can appoint up to four executors in total, although that many can cause confusion. Most people choose to appoint two executors, who can share the responsibility. It also ensures one executor is in place if the other dies, or one is ‘unwilling or unable’ to be an executor. You can also appoint substitute executors to step in if this happens.
Looking to write a new will or amend an old one? Call us for your free will assessment to ensure your will is clear, straightforward and watertight for your executors and your family.
Talk before you appoint
It’s very important that you talk to any would-be executors before you make your will. The person/s you choose may not want to take on the role, as they will have a legal duty to act in the best interests of the estate, not themselves.
Also, bear in mind that close family executors will have to deal with the emotions around your death as well as the practical, legal requirements of law. So, don’t be disappointed or surprised if someone close to you turns down the offer. If they accept, then they need to do so in full understanding of the responsibilities, so give them time to consider it carefully.
You can appoint a professional with specialist knowledge, such as a solicitor or accountant, to act as your executor. This is particularly useful if your estate is complicated, or if you think a family executor would need help to do the job properly. The process of sorting out your estate (known as probate) can take some considerable time too, up to a year. Appointing a professional executor helps ensure the administration is done properly and in a timely fashion, to keep things moving forward for your family.
A professional such as a solicitor will charge for their services as your executor, either through a fixed fee, an hourly rate or a percentage of the estate. Executors can also claim reasonable expenses for their work in dealing with your estate. These costs will be deducted from the estate before distribution.
Financial responsibilities for executors
Being an executor carries great financial responsibility, as they will be in charge of your entire estate finances including the disposal of your property if it is to be sold.
They also need to deal with:
- Paying any outstanding bills, such as utilities, credit cards or mortgages
- Calculating the value of the estate for Inheritance Tax (IHT)
- Setting up a bank account for the estate
- Notifying institutions and companies about the death including banks, insurance companies, employers, pension providers and utility suppliers
- Paying any IHT due
- Applying for probate (a legal document which gives them the authority to share out the estate.).
- Distributing the estate according to the terms of the will.
It’s important to remember that your executors are personally liable for all bills and the estate finances until probate is granted. This includes liability for all the calculations of the value of the estate. So it really is a major financial responsibility that you are handing to them.
The IHT “Catch 22”
Any Inheritance Tax due on your estate will need to be paid before probate is granted. This can be difficult for an executor if your estate is large, as they would have to potentially fund it themselves.
Be aware that executors can opt out by:
- Giving up their right to apply for probate (known as a ‘renunciation’)
- Choosing to apply for probate later if another executor can’t be found (known as holding ‘power reserved’)
- Appointing an attorney to act on their behalf
Changing your executors
When you update or amend your Will, you can choose to change or add more executors. New executors can be added via a codicil, a simple document that is signed and witnessed like a will. This document is then attached to your Will. Or you can take the opportunity to write a new Will that reflects your current wishes and family circumstances, such as new grandchildren or the sale of a business.
Help with writing your will
At Panthera Estate Planning, we have helped hundreds of people write will, appoint executors and ensure that their estate is in order. Call us for a free, no-obligation discussion on your circumstances. We help people from all walks of life and range of incomes and assets to protect and preserve what is theirs and pass it on efficiently and effectively to future generations. Call us - we are here to help.
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