How to Choose your Executor

Writing a Will online is quick, easy and affordable and our online Will template guides you through every step, including how to choose your executor. Choosing your executor is just as important as deciding who gets what though, so here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how to choose an executor.

What are an executor’s responsibilities?

An executor’s basic responsibilities are:

  • Arranging for the disposal of your body, according to your wishes in your Will
  • Ensuring your estate’s debts and taxes are paid
  • Distributing what is left to your beneficiaries, according to your wishes as detailed in your Will

It can take quite some time and involve difficult decisions, such as deciding when to sell your property so that the people who inherit the proceeds get the money.

We recommend considering whether the executors you have in mind have the financial knowledge to enable them to maximise what is left to your beneficiaries and the personal character to ensure everyone is treated fairly and according to your wishes.

We also recommend considering the impact on family dynamics of picking one family member over another. It is not unusual for Wills to be contested on the basis of claims of undue influence. Writing a Letter of Intent explaining why you have not chosen certain family members as executors in favour of others is a good idea (this is also the case if you choose to write a family member out of your Will)

Who can be an executor?

Choosing the right executor for your estate is as important as making a Will, whether you are making a Will online or offline. 

You can choose anyone over the age of 18, so long as they are mentally competent. You can choose people who will be beneficiaries too. Indeed, most people do. In fact, many people choose their spouse or their children, many a solicitor, financial planner or Trust Company, some their friends or business associates. 

Whoever you choose, you need to know you can trust them and to make sure they are aware of what it is that they are agreeing to. 

Make sure too that, as well as being sure of their character (that they are trustworthy), you are confident that they are familiar with taxation and financially literate enough to be able to deal with your estate. Even with a small estate, simple tax planning can save thousands, so, whilst you think your spouse or child should be the rightful person to look after your affairs, think about what is involved and be fair to that person as it is quite a burden. 

Because they do not wish to overburden their loved ones, many of our clients provide for two executors: a relative (or friend or business partner familiar with the family) and a professional who is regulated by a professional body, such as a financial planner, a Trust Company or a tax lawyer. If you choose a professional executor, make sure they belong to an organisation that is regulated. We can help here, thanks to our parent company, Honey Group. 

How many executors do I need?

Up to four executors can act at a time, but they might have to act jointly so having that many might not be practical. We recommend having two, one a professional, (as advised above).

Most of our clients take this route and divide the duties up, with a family member dealing with other family members and areas of sensitivity and a solicitor or financial planner dealing with the tax and legal work.

We also recommend naming substitute executors to cover the situation in case one of your first choice executors die. Make sure you are as prudent in your substitute choices as you are in your first choice and that these people are happy to take on the role.

How can I ensure my executor sticks to my wishes once I am dead?

If you have followed the advice above and chosen well, hopefully your wishes are safe. To be extra sure though, do spell out your intentions, as well as the executor’s discretionary powers, as clearly as possible in your Will. If there is anything in your Will that might be contentious, make sure you write a Letter of Intent and ensure your executor has access to it upon your death.

 


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