Guide to appointing Executors in your Will

Guide to appointing Executors in your Will

Writing your Will involves making lots of decisions. LOTS. How are you going to divide your estate up, who’s getting what? Who DESERVES what… Guardians for your children. Would a trust be a good idea, who’s going to look after Mr Tibbles. However, appointing Executors is arguably one of the most important decisions you’ll make.

What is an Executor?
An executor is the person named in a Will that will be responsible for sorting a person’s estate once they have died.

What are the Executors actual duties?
Most people have a vague idea of what an Executor is expected to do but the actual extent of their duties can come as quite a surprise!  The role of the Executor is varied, time consuming and some people may find totally overwhelming. Here’s a brief outline of some of the duties an executor would be expected to carry out as the executor of an estate…

  • ENSURE all the property and assets belonging to the deceased are safe and secure. Make arrangements for their continued security.
  • FREEZE any bank accounts and credit cards
  • OBTAIN copies of the death certificate – make sure you have plenty of copies EVERYONE will want to see one
  • CONTACT financial institutions, creditors, employers, HMRC, insurers, suppliers etc etc… To protect against any surprise claims you might want to consider advertising for any unknown creditors.
  • COLLECT all assets and any money due to the deceased
  • PAY any outstanding taxes and debts. This comes out of the estate BUT if any mistakes are made, a creditor is missed for example the Executor will be held personally responsible.
  • VALUE the estate. Check the balance of any accounts, get an estate agent to value any property – deducting the balance of any mortgages or loans secured against them. You can probably estimate the value of the home contents but get an experts opinion for any specialist items – you really don’t want to get it wrong. And, don’t forget that i there has been any gifts made from the estate in the last 7 years may also need to be included.
  • APPLY to the probate registry for a ‘Grant of Probate’ – this gives you the legal authority to deal with the estate and collect any monies and/or assets due. You need to apply to the Personal Application Department of the Probate Registry and you’ll need a copy of the death certificate – we said you’d need loads! – a completed PA1 form and the fee.
  • DISTRUBUTE the estate. Once Grant of Probate has been obtained and, if due, any inheritance tax has been paid you can then distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased Will.

It’s not surprising that the average estate takes up to 60 hours, spread over nine months or more to administer. This is a big commitment for anyone to undertake.

Who to appoint?
As you can see from the above list the Executor’s role is no walk in the park. There is a LOT to do most of it with legal implications which could be ‘out of the comfort zone’ of many people so, you need to consider wisely. When appointing Executors you need to find someone that you trust implicitly they are after all going to be administering your Will as per your instructions. Also, it’s a good idea to find someone that you know will be good at handling all the paperwork and unfazed when dealing with the legalities.

As the Executor’s role is so important it’s always wise to have more than one named in your Will. That way they can divide up the work and support each other during the process.

You could also consider splitting the responsibility with a professional, a solicitor perhaps. There will be a charge of course, but this way your executors can deal with the family bits and you can leave the complex financial stuff to the professionals. That way you’ll know that everything has been actioned correctly and you’ll remove a lot of stress from your appointed Executors. Win-win.

Personal liabilities of your Executors
What many people don’t realise is that your Executors will be held PERSONALLY liable for any mistakes that are made during the administration of your estate. So if a creditor is missed, tax isn’t paid or the value of the estate is contested, your Executors will have to use their own funds to make things right.

How to appoint them
Appointing executors is relatively easy. It’s a good idea to ask your chosen executors BEFORE you put it in writing. It’s the not the kind of thing you want surprised on you! Then, providing they say yes, you simply let whoever is writing your Will know their full names and addresses

The right to refuse
Your executor(s) are not obliged to act and can ‘renounce’ the role. There are many reasons someone may do this but it’s more than likely that they just don’t feel that they can take on the responsibility not, that they don’t want to. It’s one thing to be asked to do it, it’s another thing entirely having to do it. Especially at a time when emotions are running high.

In the unlikely event that both your Executors renounce your beneficiaries will be asked to step into the role. Your main beneficiaries will be approached first then going down the order of the value of the gift they stand to receive.

In the absolute worst case scenario that no one wants to do it then your beneficiaries will have to appoint a professional ie a Solicitor.

How to renounce
If you want to abandon your Executor duties then you will need to sign a renunciation form at the very beginning of the process. This will relinquish your entitlement to the Grant of Probate.

When CAN’T you renounce
Well… if you’ve had a little meddle in the deceased finances you’re pretty much committed. There’s no going back so, think hard before starting the process!

Executor support services
Future Legal Services offers a comprehensive Executor support service providing as much or as little help as needed. We can be there on the end of the phone should your Executors have any questions or we can take over the administration of your estate entirely. To find out more please contact us on 01322 664885 or email


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