Choosing the executors of a Will is a big decision to make and it’s important to get it right. In this article, the Wills, Trusts and Probate team at Leicester Solicitors Bray & Bray highlights the key responsibilities of an executor, and explains what you should consider when deciding who to name as executors of your Will.
What is an executor of a Will?
By definition, an executor is somebody entrusted with making sure a person’s last wishes are granted with regards to their estate (their money, property and possessions) as per their Will. The role can be difficult and time-consuming, so it is important to understand the responsibilities involved when you decide who to name as the executor of your Will.
Some of the responsibilities that an executor takes on include:
- Applying for the Grant of Probate, also known as ‘applying for probate’ – the legal right to handle the estate of the deceased
- Paying any outstanding taxes and debts (out of the estate), this includes paying any inheritance tax due, which is necessary in order to release the Grant
- Searching for and collecting all assets and money due to the estate of the person who has died
- Distributing the estate to whoever is entitled to it under the terms of the will
How do I choose an executor for my Will?
There are little criteria with regards to who is legally eligible to be an executor. Anyone over the age of 18 can be nominated, providing they have the mental capacity to carry out the duties involved. Up to four executors can be named in your Will but only one executor is required to act. It is advisable to choose more than one executor in case one of them dies before you, and also for ease of administration in some cases.
If a named executor would prefer not to be involved, they can choose to ‘renounce’ (resign) from their duties, as long as they have not already done any administration work on the Estate beforehand. Alternatively, a ‘Notice of Power Reserved,’ can be served by the acting executor to confirm that the other named executors do not want to have an active role within the administration of the estate.
The people you decide to appoint must be those you trust to carry out your final wishes. They should be responsible and reliable, as they must be prepared to take on what can be a very demanding role. If you do name more than one person as an executor, teamwork may also be a desirable attribute to look for when making your decision.
It’s worth noting that there are potential legal limitations if an executor appointed has declared bankruptcy or if they are convicted of a crime.
The actual logistics of choosing an executor are fairly straightforward. You simply state in your Will that you would like to appoint them and include their full name and current address. It is advisable to inform your executor that you have appointed them, and to let them know where the original Wills are stored. There is nothing wrong with giving them a photocopy of your Will for their own reference.
Most people name their spouse as executor. Some people may also choose to appoint their children (if they are over the age of 18). Appointing young children based on the assumption that they will be old enough later in life may be risky depending on their age – it’s best practice to appoint someone who is eligible now.
Alternatively, you can appoint a professional executor, for instance your solicitor or accountant. This is often advisable where the estate is significant, and a professional with relevant experience is more appropriate.
In circumstances where there is no one willing and able to act as executor, it is possible to appoint a government official as executor. They are known as the Public Trustee and are often named as executor in cases where a Will leaves everything to one person and that person cannot act as executor themselves – for example, a child. However, they cannot be your executor if executing your estate involves managing a business or if your estate is insolvent.
Executors of a Will: how we can help
Choosing who to appoint as an executor of your will can be a difficult decision to make. Our expert team of Wills, Trusts and Probate specialists can help. We can handle the entire probate process, or just part of it – whatever best suits your needs.
Bray & Bray has three main offices in Leicestershire and one in Corby. Pop in and see us at your local office, or contact us to discuss an enquiry or case you have:
Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871.
Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900.
Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181.
Corby (by appointment only) call us on 01536 851050
We also run a weekly Wills clinic every Wednesday morning at Charnwood Living in Anstey. Drop in for some free informal legal advice on Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney, or you can book a more in-depth appointment at a fixed fee.