Choosing your executors
Acting as executor (and sometimes also as trustee of an ongoing trust created by the Will) is a significant responsibility, to which personal liability can attach if the person appointed does not carry out the estate or trust administration correctly.
When making or updating your Will, it is important to choose individuals who will be suited and willing to take on the role and who you trust absolutely to give effect to what you intend.
Who can you appoint as an executor?
You may wish to appoint one or more people from the following:
- A member of your family, such as a spouse or adult child. You should consider whether the role which the executor is expected to fulfil may create a conflict of interest if that person is also a beneficiary. If you are choosing more than one family member as executor and trustee, you should consider whether they will be able to work well together.
- A neutral family friend, who is prepared to take on the role and the responsibility involved, and in whom you have complete confidence.
- A professional firm who will assume responsibility for the administration of the estate, bringing their experience and expertise to the process, dealing with any tax reporting and other complexities, liaising closely with any lay executor(s) also appointed and accounting to the beneficiaries for what is due to them. A professional executor can ensure appropriate steps are taken in the event of any family dispute over the Will and identify options and necessary steps to make tax savings for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
Why appoint a professional executor?
Appointing a professional firm as executor will usually mean that the firm is necessarily involved in the estate administration when the will one day take effect. This will mean some professional fees will be incurred when the estate is administered (which can be met out of the estate at the time).
There are many benefits associated with appointing a professional firm as executor:
- There should always be someone to administer your estate. If you appoint individuals of your generation, you cannot be certain that they will survive you or be well enough to act.
- A professional executor will be able to act objectively and make balanced decisions on what can often be sensitive and difficult family situations. A lay executor may struggle with this or may feel ‘in the firing line’ if there are any tensions within the family.
- The joint appointment of a lay executor and a professional executor can be an ideal combination. The lay executor will know you and your family situation and a professional executor, who is familiar with legal and tax formalities, can ensure your estate is dealt with correctly, efficiently and sensitively.
Even if you choose to appoint only family or friends as your executors, they may choose to engage the services of a professional to help with all or part of the administration, or to advise on any complexities which may arise. The cost will usually be met from the estate. It is particularly important for lay executors to seek professional advice where there is any potential dispute over the Will or if the Will includes trust arrangements. Trusts are usually included in a Will with asset protection or tax planning in mind. However, it is essential that the trust is dealt with correctly, with the benefit of expert advice and considering the tax rules and circumstances at the relevant time, to make sure it has the desired effect.
For more information please contact a member of our Private Client Team
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