How do I choose an Executor?

Choosing an executor

An Executor is a person who sorts out your property and finances when you die, and carries out any other instructions in your Will.

Anyone aged 18 or over can be an Executor of a Will – and you can have more than one Executor, which is usual.

You can ask someone to be your Executor even if you plan to leave them something in your Will.

What does an Executor of a Will do?

On your death, your Executor’s duties might include:

  • Finding all of your financial documentation.
  • Sending a copy of the death certificate to all institutions that hold money for you, and ensuring that the accounts are frozen.
  • Opening a bank account for the estate.
  • Finding out about any money that is owed to you/the estate.
  • Finding out about any money that you owed to others.
  • Collecting in all money, including bank accounts, savings, pensions, investments, insurance policies and anything else that is owed.
  • Making a list of all of your possessions, property and money.
  • Calculating Income Tax, Capital Gains and Inheritance Tax and making those payments.
  • Paying out any other money that is owed, such as bills, loans, credit cards and debts.
  • Deciding the right time to sell your house so that the beneficiaries get as much money as possible.
  • Paying any debts or expenses, such as solicitors’ and probate fees.
  • Distributing the leftover money to the beneficiaries in accordance with your Will.

Being an Executor can be a difficult job, even if your instructions are clear and you don’t have many assets. The process of dealing with your estate will usually take a number of months.

Who should I choose as an Executor for my Will?

A lot of people will choose their spouse, civil partner or grown-up children to be their Executor. You can choose up to four Executors, but if you do choose more than one, keep in mind that they all have to act jointly. The more Executors you choose, the more difficult it may be for them to agree.

We would usually recommend that you choose two Executors – then, if one should die before you, you will still have another Executor who can manage the estate. You can also have substitute Executors who will be able to step up if your first choice of Executor dies.

You can choose a professional Executor to act for you if you want to – for example, a lawyer or an accountant. They will usually charge for this service but their advice can be invaluable.

Note that you CAN leave a gift in your will to your Executor – you can even leave your entire estate to them – but if you do, they must not be one of your witnesses.

Who would make a good Executor of a Will?

Executors often have to manage a lot of paperwork and may be faced with legal or financial issues. It makes sense to choose someone who is confident in these areas. If you choose more than one Executor and they have different skill sets (for example, one has legal knowledge and the other has financial/tax knowledge), they will be able to divide up the work.

If you choose one professional Executor (such as a lawyer) and one personal Executor (such as a grown-up child), your lawyer can handle the complex tax and legal aspects of the work, while the child will be able to deal sensitively with family members.

If you appoint two or more Executors, consider carefully whether they will find it easy to agree. Although you might think  appointing two people who are polar opposites might be a good idea so that problems can be considered from different perspectives, in reality it is likely this will cause grief and division in the family.

If you appoint your partner as your only Executor, keep in mind that they will already be dealing with a lot of grief. Including an additional Executor will help take some of the burden off their shoulders.

Above all, it is important to choose Executors for your Will that you trust.

Before you name your Executors, make sure you have spoken to them first – preferably together if possible. You will need to know that they are happy to do the job.

Using a professional

A lawyer or an accountant can be a good choice as one of your Executors – particularly if you have a complex estate, or you have property abroad. They are familiar with the work, they know the issues that will arise and they are likely to deal with the matter far more quickly than someone who has never gone through the process before.

Professionals will charge for being an Executor. Their charges may be structured in one of a number of ways. These might include some or all of the following:

  • An hourly rate, billed from time to time to reflect any work they have done for you.
  • A percentage of the total value of your estate.
  • A flat fee for handling the estate.

Speak to your chosen lawyer or accountant before appointing them as an Executor to make sure they are happy to act for you, and to find out how much they will charge.

When you’ve chosen your Executors

Make sure you give the Executors’ full names and addresses in your Will – otherwise it’s possible they may not be found and can therefore not carry out their duties.  Try to keep their contact information up to date in your Will.

What if I don’t have anyone who can be an Executor?

It is rather unlikely that you won’t have anyone who can be your Executor as you can always approach a lawyer – but there is also a Government official called the Public Trustee who can be your Executor if there is really nobody else to act for you.

This will happen automatically in some situations – for example, if you leave everything to one person, and that person cannot act for you as Executor because they are unwell or have a condition (such as dementia) which prevents them from managing financial affairs.

Need advice?

Call us on 0800 788 0500 or email info@aprilking.co.uk. We’d also be happy to see you in person. We have locations across the UK and we can also cater for home visits. We would be happy to answer any questions you have or discuss making a Will with you, without obligation. Just call or email to make an appointment with your nearest office. If you’d rather use a local number, just hover over ‘Offices’ in the top menu and choose your nearest location.