When writing your will, choosing an Executor is one of the first decisions you need to make. But who should you choose? What are their responsibilities?
An Executor is responsible for carrying out your wishes as stated in your will. Executors can also be Beneficiaries or Guardians, and many people will name their spouse, significant other, or children as Executors. It’s important to name more than one in case they’re unable to act- this protects the validity of your will. It may also be beneficial to name multiple or professional Executors if your estate is large or complicated.
You have your choice of Executors. You can name an individual, a professional, or a Trust Corporation.
When you decide, think about the following points and take them into account:
- Availability and suitability: You may trust your sibling implicitly, but if they live in another country, their ability to act may be hindered
- Willingness to act: Your family will have just suffered a loss and may find it difficult to make decisions
- Any possibility of conflict or dispute: Loss can bring out some difficult emotions. If leaving everything to your children, for example, it may be best to name a more objective person as Executor.
- The size, nature, and location of the estate, as well as the assets, beneficiaries, and the complexity of the burden placed on Executors: It can take up to two years (or longer) for some more complicated estates. Does your Executor have the time and resources necessary to complete the task?
- The costs involved: Sometimes there can be upfront fees for funerals, taxes, etc, if comprehensive planning has not been made. Will your Executor need to get loans and go into debt to administrate your estate?
Now that we know who to choose, what is the job of an Executor?
- Obtain a copy of the medical certificate indicating cause of death and a formal notice from the Doctor if the family doesn’t wish to do so.
- Register the death at the Local Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages if there are no family members wishing to do so. The death must be registered in order to obtain the Death Certificate. It is advisable to get more than one copy as it will be needed when dealing with insurance companies, pension providers, etc.
- Ensure any last wishes such as organ or body donations are carried out. The job might also include planning for the funeral or cremation and arranging payment for the services provided.
- Make sure they have the last original will of the deceased. The testator (the person making the will) should have notified them as to the location of this.
- Locate all heirs. This could be simple or complicated depending on the amount of beneficiaries.
- Make an exhaustive list of all the assets of the estate, from personal to real property, bank accounts, investments, and debts including credit cards, utility bills, loans, etc.
- Open a separate estate account into which money collected can be credited. This will prevent estate monies being confused with personal finances.
- Notify all businesses of the death, ie utility companies, credit card companies, council tax offices, social security, etc.
- Make sure that all the deceased debts are settled before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.
- If there are minor or dependent children, the Executor could be responsible for arranging their care and placement. The deceased might have their wishes stated in their will, but if not, the courts might need to be involved in the placement. If there are pets, the Executor will be responsible to care for them and make arrangements for their continued care.
- Pay any inheritance tax necessary.
- Calculate and declare the value of the estate to HMRC on an Inheritance Tax Return within 12 months of death.
- Pay the Deceased’s tax. (This is the Executor’s responsibility. Failure to submit an accurate account to HMRC may leave them open to personal liability or penalties.)
- Complete the relevant forms and submit them to the Probate Office to get the Grant of Probate
- Distribute the contents of the will, making sure that if anything has been left to minors, a Trustee has been named.
- After you have completed all of your tasks, the Executor needs to produce a full set of accounts for the Beneficiaries showing the estate assets and liabilities, administration income, and expenses and how the estate has been distributed.
There’s a lot to think about.
A key consideration will be the extent to which you require professionals to support the Executor in this role. When asking someone to serve as Executor in your will, be sure you understand their duties and responsibilities. Being the Executor of an estate is not really an honour; it’s a difficult and time-consuming job that carries legal responsibility. An Executor can work for up to a couple of years working on your estate, and could even be an unpopular person to your heirs.
Obviously, there’s a lot to consider here and will require some thought. Every family is different, as are their needs and desires. If you have questions about your specific situation and would like some advice, please reach out to us for a free, no-obligation consultation.