Appointing an Executor

What is an executor?

An executor is someone appointed in a will to distribute the estate of the testator in accordance with the wishes set out in the Will. Quite often this will mean drawing in assets and paying any debts and liabilities owed before being able to make any of the gifts set out in the Will.

How many executors can be appointed?

There is no limit as to how many executors can be appointed but it is important to add that the executors are required to act jointly meaning any decisions must be unanimous. Therefore, when appointing a significant number of executors, it is best to exercise common sense and perhaps appoint some chosen executors as substitute executors who can step in if other executors are not willing to, or are unable to take on the role.

Despite there being no limit as to how many executors can be appointed, only a maximum of four executors can act in respect of the same part of the estate.

What age must an executor be?

The only requirements are that an executor must be at least 18 years of age, be of sound mind, not bankrupt and have no criminal convictions.

Choosing an executor

It is important to take care when choosing executors. Consideration should be made as to whether they are able to take on the role. As an Example, a parent wants to appoint their currently 19-year-old son/daughter to be the executor of their estate. If the parent sadly died soon after, the question is would the son/daughter be able to carry out the role given the great deal of responsibility this involves?

The executors must be able to work well together where multiple executors are appointed due to the requirement to make unanimous decisions. If someone knowingly appoints 2 executors who do not see eye to eye, the reality is that distributing the estate and making any decision with regards to this could become very difficult.

The chosen executors must be trustworthy and not be residing in another country for practical reasons. The age of the executor should be considered i.e. if they are elderly when appointed in the will, they may not be able to act when required.

Executors can be trusted friends or family members. Others may prefer to appoint a professional executor i.e. accountants or a trust corporation if the estate is particularly complex. Alternatively, the executor can seek advice from a professional as and when required.

What are the duties of an executor?

The duties and responsibilities of an executor include, but are not limited to:-

  • • Identifying and locating the assets and liabilities of the estate
  • • Applying for a grant of probate
  • • Advertising for claims and ensure all claims and debts are received, assessed and paid
  • • Dealing with tax returns and paying any inheritance tax due
  • • Arranging the funeral
  • • Determining the beneficiaries
  • • Distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the will and transferring assets to trustees if necessary
  • • Defending the estate against litigation should any arise

Can an executor charge for their services?

A trust corporation or a professional executor may charge a reasonable fee for their services. Lay executors who are not a trust corporation or professional executor may only charge if the will contains a paragraph which expressly authorises the payment. They can claim out of pocket expenses though.

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