Elizabeth Fletcher, associate solicitor in our Home & Family team, explains the role of an executor appointed in a will and some of the issues to consider when deciding who to appoint as an executor.
An executor is appointed under the terms of somebody’s will and is responsible for dealing with the administration of that person’s estate when they die.
What responsibilities does an executor have?
This can involve anything from registering the death and organising the funeral; to valuing the estate, accounting to HM Revenue & Customs for the payment of inheritance tax and applying for a Grant of Representation; to distributing the estate in accordance with the will.
Whilst it is a role many of us would be happy to take on for our family and friends, it can be incredibly time consuming and comes with great responsibility.
Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the appointment of executors when you are preparing a will. You can appoint whoever you wish to be an executor even if they are going to benefit under the terms of your will.
What do I need to consider when appointing an executor?
It is important to have a discussion with that person beforehand to confirm they would be willing to take on the role. Think about their availability, their age (might they die before you?), their location (if they are based abroad it may be practically difficult to take on the role) and if they all get along (where you are appointing more than one executor). You can appoint substitutes in case your preferred executor dies before you or is unable or unwilling to act.
It is worth bearing in mind that you could appoint a professional such a solicitor. This may suit you if you don’t want to burden your family or friends with dealing with your affairs when you die, or if you cannot think of anybody suitable for the job. However, there will be costs associated with appointing a professional.
What happens if I don’t choose an executor?
If you die without leaving appointing executors, then usually it is those who benefit from your estate under the rules of intestacy who will be entitled to administer your estate. Generally speaking, priority is given to a spouse or civil partner, followed by children, then parents, then siblings and so on. This may not correspond with your wishes and the person so entitled may not be willing or fit to act.