An executor is someone who is responsible for sorting out your estate, which includes your money, property and possessions, when you die.
You’ll usually name two executors in your will who will be in charge of valuing and distributing your assets to beneficiaries, paying off any debts and tax owed, and dealing with the sale of your property and passing on of your possessions when you die.
Here, we explain how to choose your executors and what exactly their role involves.
What will your executor do?
An executor is in charge of the process known as ‘probate’, which can sometimes take months or even years to complete after your death. Read more in our guides What to do when someone dies and What is probate?
As mentioned, the role of executor involves a wide range of tasks, such as valuing and distributing assets to beneficiaries, and they can also ensure that your personal funeral or burial wishes are carried out after your death.
How do I choose executors?
Executors are often chosen because they are trusted and responsible individuals who you believe will act in your and your beneficiaries’ best interests after you’re gone. They can be anyone you choose, such as family, friends or professionals such as an accountant or solicitor. However, you’ll want to be sure that they are capable of dealing with the responsibility this role involves, and financial matters, such as valuing your assets and selling your home after you die if no-one else will be living there.
Most people choose at least two executors (but you can appoint up to four) when writing their will, and it’s important to consider that those chosen will ideally be able to work together to share the workload. You may decide that the best option, for example, is to choose a family member and solicitor so you have someone with professional expertise also working as your executor.
Read more about the process of writing your will and choosing executors in our guide How to write a will. Those chosen should also be asked if they’re comfortable taking on the role before being named, as it can involve plenty of work.
Can an executor also be a beneficiary?
An executor can also be a beneficiary of your will, so they will inherit on your death. It’s common for an executor to be the main beneficiary, even, such as a spouse, partner or child. However, they may not stand to inherit anything, and can still act as an executor.
Beware, though, that an executor cannot also be a witness to you signing your will, or they will not be entitled to receive their share of inheritance under the terms of your will.
Do executors have to act together?
Executors must act jointly, so while you can choose up to four, it may not be helpful to appoint that many as it could cause delays and problems administering the estate. It’s possible for one executor to act alone, but all executors are jointly responsible for any actions taken, so it’s important to get consent of other executors first.
What if I can’t find someone to be an executor?
If you don’t have any close family or friends who you’d like to take on the role of executor, or who will agree to the responsibility, you could choose a professional such as a solicitor or accountant instead. You are able to name just one executor in your will in this scenario, but it’s generally recommended that you appoint at least two, in case one executor is unable to act for a particular reason when the time comes.
Bear in mind, though, that solicitors will charge a fee for acting as your executor, even for the administration of a simple estate. You may feel more comfortable choosing someone else if you want to avoid this additional cost, and remember that they don’t need to be a close relative.
If nobody is named as an executor in your will, your will will still be valid, but someone else will be appointed to administer your estate. This will usually be whoever would inherit under intestacy rules, and they will need to apply to get the grant of probate. This person won’t necessarily be the one you would have chosen to take on this responsibility, which also makes it important to write a will and choose your own executors.
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