For many families, discussions about death are difficult to digest and for those who do manage to have the conversation, it’s often an uncomfortable one to have as it can be difficult to envisage how life will be without a loved one. Unfortunately, it's inevitable that we will all experience a loss at some point during our lifetime, and in many cases, this happens without previous discussion and little planning in place, which ultimately makes a difficult time even more challenging.
Deciding who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your Will should be a task considered wisely. Whilst there are no legal obligations to discuss your Will and its contents in advance, it’s worth discussing the role of an Executor with your chosen candidate to take away the element of surprise. This blog looks at various considerations that should be deliberated when making the important decision of selecting your Executor(s).
Understanding the role of an Executor
An Executor is the person(s) that carries out the instructions set out in a Will. If there is no Will (also known as intestacy), the role is known as an Administrator (normally the next of kin). Both roles have the same responsibility: to administer a person’s estate when they have passed away. You may have come across the term Personal Representative, which is the collective term for both Executors and Administrators.
The role and responsibilities of an Executor should not be taken lightly, as the person appointed is legally and financially responsible for the administration of the estate. This means that the Executor can be held accountable for any mistakes, including the misdistribution of inheritance, or paying the wrong amount of Inheritance Tax. It is an unpaid role, but an Executor or Administrator can be paid for reasonably incurred expenses. They are also the only person(s) who can instruct a legal professional to administer the estate on their behalf.
As every estate is different, the duties of an Executor or Administrator in the estate administration process can vary case by case. On average, it takes around twelve months to complete the estate administration and includes tasks such as completing relevant Tax forms, valuing assets and liabilities and applying for the Grant of Probate (Confirmation in Scotland), to name a few. We’ve created a guide that highlights the tasks that can be expected with the role of an Executor or Administrator and explains the associated responsibilities in more detail.
What should I consider when selecting the Executor(s) of my Will?
The person you appoint as Executor must be somebody that you trust to follow the instructions set out in your Will and find suitable solutions if any disagreements arise.
It's worth considering that when selecting your Executor(s), you can name up to four people in a Will. This means they can share the responsibility and handle the estate administration together. Whilst this brings many positives, consider whether the chosen Executors will be able to work harmoniously together so the estate is dealt with as quickly as possible. It's also advisable to name more than one Executor in case the person selected predeceases you or chooses not to accept the role, as there is no legal obligation for the chosen Executor to carry out their duties.
Additionally, consider whether your chosen Executor(s) will be confident with managing large amounts of paperwork and dealing with complex legal issues. Another quality that is desirable in an Executor is strong organisational skills and having the time available to devote to what can be a very time-consuming task.
Who can I appoint as my Executor(s)?
For a family member to be named as an Executor of your Will, they will need to be aged 18 or above. It’s common for a spouse, civil partner, or children to be named as an Executor(s), and there’s no rule in place regarding beneficiaries named in your Will also being your Executor(s). When drafting your Will, it’s a good time to have this discussion with your chosen Executor(s) to make sure they are happy to take on the role. If a Will has already been written and they reject the role, it's advisable to change or add another Executor to avoid complications at the time of death. If this is the only change, it could be done by a Codicil that outlines the change but leaves the rest of the Will unaltered. If there are other changes you wish to make at the same time, it may be worth rewriting your Will to avoid any confusion on your instructions.
A professional estate administration specialist
An alternative approach that you can take is instructing a professional estate administration provider to take care of everything involved in the process. Professionals who offer an estate administration service may include Solicitors, Will Writers, Financial Advisers or companies who specialise in estate administration such as Kings Court Trust.
Before instructing a specialist, several factors should be considered:
Price: There are three main charging methods that estate administration providers tend to use. They may provide you with a price for the service upfront, offer hourly rates or charge a percentage of the estate. A fixed price is typically the most transparent option as you’ll know what you’re paying upfront, whereas there can be a lot of uncertainty around hourly rates and a percentage of the estate can be disproportional to the work involved.
Service: It’s advisable to ask exactly what tasks will be undertaken and whether you’ll be required to handle anything yourself.
Regulation: It’s worth checking if the estate administration provider is regulated to provide the services.
Legal and financial responsibility: Some estate administration providers may take on this responsibility. Ask them questions to find out if you would still be financially and legally liable if something were to go wrong.
If you don’t have anyone who can be an Executor
A government official called the Public Trustee can be your Executor as a last resort. A Public Trustee will step in if your Will leaves everything to one person and that person is unable to act as the Executor.
When you’ve chosen your Executor(s)
After having the discussion with your chosen Executor(s) and receiving confirmation that they are happy to accept the role, make sure that their full names and addresses are included in your Will to ensure they can be located. It's recommended as best practice to update a Will every five years which is a good chance to update any contact information that may have changed.
Taking the necessary steps and precautions during your lifetime can eliminate any unnecessary stress that your loved ones may face when administering your estate when the time comes. We’ve created a blog that looks at the importance of estate planning and ensuring your affairs are in order.
As this blog highlights, the role of an Executor or Administrator is not straightforward. The role comes with a great amount of responsibility and takes up a significant amount of time and resource to complete all the necessary tasks. That’s why many decide to appoint Kings Court Trust as the sole or joint Executor of their Wills to provide an award-winning probate and estate administration service, removing the financial and legal burden and allowing families to focus on life’s important moments. At the point of death, Kings Court Trust will provide a fixed price quotation and will offer a variety of service levels with no obligation to the Executor to take up any offer. The Executor will then have a clear understanding of what's involved and will be able to make a decision on how to proceed with the estate administration.