Executors are the individuals you appoint in your Will to administer your estate. Their responsibilities include arranging the funeral, locating the Will, applying for the Grant of Probate, and many other tasks. It is normal to appoint between one and four executors and it may be sensible to consider appointing alternates.

Executors are responsible for:

  • making funeral arrangements and ensuring they conform to your wishes
  • locating your original Will
  • applying to court for the Grant of Probate
  • completing Inheritance Tax and Income Tax returns
  • opening and operating an Executor’s account
  • collecting in all your assets
  • paying your debts, funeral expenses, court fees and outstanding Inheritance and Income Tax
  • distributing your assets in accordance with the Will once Probate has been obtained
  • maintaining records and keeping receipts should there be any subsequent challenge

Appointing executors

The appointment of good executors may be one of the most important gifts that you can make to your heirs. The right decisions made by executors can have direct financial benefits in terms of minimising the amount of inheritance tax paid on the estate or maximising the value of that estate. But choosing the right executors can also maximise the speed with which the estate is dealt with, as well as minimise the distress generated in what is invariably a difficult time.

The last thing that most people making a will would want is want their family “falling out” after their death. But stressful life events, such as divorce or death, have a tendency to bring out the worst in people – and this is, sadly, increasingly the case now that so many families now include step-parents, step-children or half-brothers and sisters.

This makes the appointment of an executor more than the selection of someone you can trust and who has the necessary skills, time and resources to deal with the complexities of guiding an estate through probate.

A good “lay” executor should, ideally, possess the following qualities:

  • honesty
  • conscientiousness
  • impartiality
  • diplomacy
  • strong communication skills
  • diligence
  • awareness of the limitations of their knowledge so that they can seek professional assistance if necessary

Further factors relevant to your choice of lay executor may include:

  • willingness to act
  • age
  • location
  • physical, mental and emotional resilience – executorship is a demanding task which must be carried out at a very difficult time

Professional executors

Alternatively, you may decide to appoint professional executors – whose professional fees, payable out of the estate, are normally calculated based on a percentage value of the estate. Banks, solicitors, and accountants all offer executorship services and would expect to charge around 2-4%.

Although professional executors can save time, tax and the burdens attached to administering an estate, the main area where professional executors can help is in being detached, so that they can make decisions – sometimes difficult ones – in the interests of the beneficiaries as a whole, without having any vested interests themselves.

Helping your executors

Whether you appoint professional or lay executors, there are a number of simple steps you can take to make their task as easy as possible and, potentially, save on professional fees:

  • maintain a list of assets – bank accounts, investments, shareholdings, insurance policies and so on – together with account/client/reference numbers and contact details. Don’t forget internet accounts (but don’t write your passwords down)
  • ensure that your original Will and associated documents are stored safely, and that your executors know where they are and how to access them. You have a number of options, including our secure will storage facility
  • leave a sealed copy of your Will with your executors together with details of your preferred funeral arrangements, and funeral pre-payment plan, if any
  • draw up a list of individuals and institutions you would wish to be notified in the event of your death

treeNext steps

Contact us today on 07887 946 557 or online to discuss how Alex Truesdale Wills Limited can help you with a Will or associated service.