Executor of a will
Writing a will ensures that after you die, your estate will be dealt with according to your preferences. You may enlist the assistance of a solicitor, a will-writing company, or a will-writing service provided by your bank, and alternatively, you may choose to write the will yourself.
Although all of these options are legal, not all are recommended. For a will to be deemed legally valid, certain criteria and formalities must be met and a solicitor is usually the best solution in ensuring your estate will be distributed as you intended.
Choosing the right person to write your will is only part of the process. You also need to appoint an executor of your will who, to all intents and purposes, is your living representative and whose responsibility it is to ensure your wishes are carried out in full.
What is the role of an executor?
An executor is responsible for carrying out the instructions left in your will and for handling your estate. They must gather your assets and value them, before paying off any debts and taxes that you may owe. After this, they must distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries listed within your will.
Who can act as an executor?
An executor can be anybody over the age of 16 who has mental capacity. You may choose a family member, a loved one, a friend, or a professional, such as a solicitor or a representative from the bank. You can appoint multiple executors if you wish, to act together or separately, and your executor can also be a beneficiary. It’s important to approach your executor before appointing them, as they also have a right to refuse the responsibility.
Who should you choose to be an executor?
Where possible, appointing a close friend or family member to deal with your estate is advised. You may choose to appoint your partner or your children, or perhaps a trusted friend. Whoever you choose, you must be confident that they are willing to accept the responsibility, someone you trust, and someone who will act in the best interests of your estate. The executor must be able to carry out all instructions left in your will in a timely and efficient manner.
Unfortunately, not everybody has all of these options available to them; you may have no living relatives, or your family may live in another country. You could have living family, but your relationship with them may be rocky, leading you to require a neutral executor. In these instances, you could choose to appoint your solicitor as your executor. For most people, this is an unnecessary expense as there is a fee attached but for some people, choosing their solicitor as their executor means that their will is dealt with efficiently without causing additional stress or upset in a family.
How many executors can you appoint?
It’s common to appoint more than one executor but strictly speaking, you don’t have to. Most people appoint between two and four but three is a good number as it means if there is any deadlock in decision-making, an odd number of people can help resolve the issue more quickly.
Appointing more than one person also means that in the event of one executor being unable to carry out their duties, there is still someone else who can continue to do so.
Can you change your executor?
Our relationships with family and friends take many twists and turns over a lifetime and it may be that the person we appoint as an executor earlier in our life, is not the person who we want to carry out the role as we get older. This could be for many reasons such as meeting a new partner, a disagreement in the family, or if the person appointed no longer has the capacity to carry out the task, or indeed is no longer alive themselves.
To change executor, you must complete a codicil. A codicil is a legal document that dictates any modifications to your original will, meaning you can make small changes to your will without needing to write a new one.
Incidentally, you can also use a codicil to update beneficiaries, update gifts to beneficiaries and update your guardian selection (if you have children under the age of 18).
There are no limits to the number of codicils, so you can make as many changes of the above sort as you need to. However, it’s worth noting that too many codicils could make a will confusing and more complicated to enact, so if you end up with too many, it could be beneficial to rewrite your will in its entirety.
Do I need to tell my executors that I have appointed them?
It makes sense to tell your chosen executors that you have bestowed this role on them. After you die they will need to register your death, help plan your funeral, and apply for ‘confirmation’. This is a legal document from the court that permits the executor(s) to value and then access your estate (such as monies held in bank accounts) and to distribute this as per your wishes.
Having a clearly-written, legally-valid will with capable and trustworthy executors appointed, gives great peace of mind at all stages of life. If you would like further information about writing your will, choosing suitable executors, or changing executors, our team of expert solicitors is available to help.