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What is the Role of an Executor?

What is the Role of an Executor?

One common question we’re asked is ‘what is an Executor, and when should one be used?’

What does an Executor do?

When someone dies, everything they owned (or owed) in life is referred to as their Estate.  An Executor is the person who is named in a Will as being responsible for dealing with that Estate.

Executor of Will meaning

Acting as your Executor is both an honour and an obligation.  On the one hand, you have expressed your trust and faith in them as being able to sort out your Estate and ensure that the wishes expressed in your Will are respected and acted upon.  On the other hand, an Executor is tasked with examining every aspect of your life to ensure nothing is over-looked.  Either way, it’s an important task and one you should bestow on someone you are confident can do it well.

Who should use an Executor?

When you write a Will, you must choose who your Executor is to be.  It’s part of the process. It could be a member of the family, a trusted friend or colleague or a legal professional.  You can choose more than one Executor but one or two is usually sufficient.

When is the right time to find an Executor?

Before you write your Will you should decide who your Executor is going to be.  Most people choose the solicitor that is preparing the Will for you, but you can select anyone you want.  It’s worth discussing your wishes with that person before you commit anything to paper.  They may feel it’s a responsibility they don’t want or couldn’t cope with and the last thing you want, in the event of your death, is to add more stress to the people you leave behind.  Talk to them, explain your choices and, if they don’t want to be named, try working together to come up with an alternative.

What are an Executor’s responsibilities to beneficiaries?

The Executor is responsible for taking care of your Estate.  They need to place a monetary value on everything you own and arrange for the sale or handover of every item.  They will have to make sure any debts you have are paid in full and that all beneficiaries have been found, especially if you’ve lost touch.  Their responsibility is firstly to you and your financial affairs. Only when they have sorted your Estate to the satisfaction of the courts and the tax office do they arrange for payments or ownership to be transferred to your beneficiaries.

Is there a time limit with Executor duties?

Officially an Executor’s duties start at the moment of your passing.  They are responsible for securing any property you own, notifying relevant parties of your demise and applying for a Grant of Probate to enable them to start the legal processes involved.  Typically, if no one contests the contents of a Will and your affairs were in order when you died, the whole process should take between six and twelve months. Beneficiaries can expect to receive their inheritance no more than a year after your death.

I’m joint Executor of a Will.  What should I do?

It’s not unusual for more than one person to be named Executor.  A solicitor and a family member or friend, working together should provide the perfect combination – one that understands the legal processes required and one that knows you personally and will see that your wishes are carried out the way you wanted them.  

Why an Executor is the right choice

An Executor is a necessary part of writing a Will.  When choosing someone other than a legal professional, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can they be trusted to act out your wishes, ensuring your beneficiaries receive everything you want them too?
  • Will they be able to cope with the pressure this role will place on them?
  • Do they want the responsibility? Have you spoken to them about it?Are they likely to outlive you? Or at least enjoy full health after you’ve gone?
  • Will members of your family accept them as your Executor? Have you discussed it with your family?.
  • Does this person have the organisational skills to cope with the paperwork?
  • Does this person live close to you or will they be acting long-distance?

Whatever you decide, it’s important to review your arrangements regularly to make sure nothing has changed.  If you’ve lost touch or their circumstances have changed you might want to choose someone else.  Just as your Will should be updated as your family grows, shrinks or changes, so should your choice of Executor.  And remember that, above all, simply having a legal, valid Will at the time of your death will make everything so much easier for those you leave behind, ensuring the best possible outcome for them.

If you are an Executor and have a probate property you’d like help with, call us on 0808 164 6390 or visit our website