When you make a Will, you should appoint one or more executors to deal with the administration of your estate after your death.
You can either choose a trusted relative or friend or appoint a professional.
An executor is responsible for the winding-up of someone’s affairs after they die. This can be a time-consuming and onerous task, involving collecting in and valuing assets, calculating and paying Inheritance Tax and other liabilities, clearing and selling any property, preparing estate accounts and distributing the estate to the named beneficiaries.
Appointing a private individual as your executor
Most people choose private individuals to act on their behalf. While this can work well, there are a number of issues to bear in mind when appointing someone.
Because the job of executor can take many months or even years to carry out and often involves a considerable amount of correspondence and liaising with asset holders and others, such as estate agents, you should ensure that your choice of executor is likely to have the time to take on the role.
The job can also be complex, for example, valuing the estate then calculating how much Inheritance Tax is payable, which is worked out on a sliding scale and must take into account not only the assets held in the estate, but any cash gifts made in the preceding seven years.
The executor could be held personally liable for any errors that cause the estate a loss, even if these were genuine mistakes.
Because of the amount of work involved in being an executor, it is advisable to ask someone before appointing them, to give
them the opportunity to consider whether they feel that they can take on the job. Quite often, people only find out after a death that they are to be an executor, or they are only asked after the Will has been drawn up and signed.
When making your choice, it is a good idea to select someone younger than you if possible.
Appointing a professional as your executor
The alternative is to appoint a professional to act as your executor. This is usually an experienced probate solicitor who will be familiar with the process and used to calculating Inheritance Tax and preparing estate accounts.
You can be sure that a professional executor will act in the best interests of the estate and that they are trustworthy. It can also help your family to avoid any misunderstandings or disagreements if a professional has conduct of the estate administration.
Often, appointing a professional means that an estate can be wound up more quickly, as they have the time and expertise to devote to the matter every day and can ensure that everything is attended to without delay.
If your circumstances or your estate are quite complicated, it may be beneficial to appoint a professional, for example, if you have diverse or complex assets or business interests.
Whether you choose a private or professional individual to be your executor, it is advisable to review your Will and the appointments it contains from time to time and, if necessary, make changes.