Acting as executor (and sometimes also as trustee of any trusts 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 three categories:

  • A member of your family, such as a spouse or adult child. You should consider whether the role which the executor is expected to fulfill may create a conflict of interest between the executor’s role and the same person’s position as 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 in whom you have complete confidence.
  • A professional firm who will bring their expertise to administering the estate, dealing with any tax reporting and other complexities and liaising closely with any lay executor for the benefit of the intended beneficiaries.

Why appoint a professional executor?

There are many advantages of appointing a professional executor:

  • If you have no close family or suitable friends from whom to choose, then a professional executorship is a good way of making sure that your estate will be dealt with efficiently and as you intended;
  • There should always be someone to administer your estate whereas 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 in what can often be sensitive and difficult family situations. A lay executor may struggle with this.
  • Choosing a professional executor should mean that advice is on hand to identify and deal appropriately with legal and tax formalities as well as opportunities to save tax and protect family wealth (particularly if the Will includes trust arrangements designed with such tax or asset protection planning in mind and which a lay executor may overlook or be unsure how to address).
  • The joint appointment of a lay executor and a professional executor can work well. The lay executor will know you and your family and the issues likely to arise and a professional executor, who is familiar with legal and tax formalities, can ensure your estate is dealt with correctly, efficiently and sensitively.

It is not always necessary to appoint a professional executor to ensure your estate is dealt with by a professional specialising in this area. A lay executor will be able 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.

For more information please contact a member of the Private Client team

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