Creating a will and appointing an executor also eases the stress for your loved ones during an already emotional and grief-stricken time. It’s not a time we like to think about, but planning for the future is a responsible and caring step to ensure our loved ones are taken care of when we’re no longer around.
If you’re in the process of creating your will, one of the crucial decisions you’ll be faced with is selecting the best executor. Your executor plays a pivotal role in ensuring your wishes are carried out exactly as you intended by managing your estate and allowing for a smooth transition for your beneficiaries.
This guide explores the responsibilities of an executor and the considerations that should be made when choosing the perfect one for you and your will.
What’s an Executor?
An executor is the person you legally appoint to administer your estate after your passing and finalise your affairs. As the role is multifaceted and requires the person to have a particular skillset, the decision needs to be given careful consideration.
The key responsibilities of an executor include the following:
1. Valuing the estate and obtaining a grant of probate
Your executor is in charge or initiating the probate process, which is the legal validation of your will. This includes obtaining evaluations on all assets including in the estate, such as property valuation.
2. Defending your will
If the will is challenged, your executor is in charge of defending your intentions.
3. Asset Management
They will need to identify and secure all of your assets, as well as manage your bank accounts, properties and other investments until they have been distributed to your beneficiaries.
4. Managing taxes and finances
Your executor will need to notify any creditors of your passing and settle any outstanding debts from the estate, such as bills and loans. They will also need to file your final income tax return.
5. Communicating with beneficiaries and distributing inheritance
Your executor is required to keep the beneficiaries of your will up-to-date with the process, as well as ensure they receive their inheritance safely. If any of the beneficiaries are under the age of 18, the executor is in charge of appropriately managing their inheritance.
To learn about the difference between an executor and a power of attorney, read our blog here.
What should I consider when choosing an executor?
With the key responsibilities of the role in mind, there are six key considerations for selecting the perfect person for the job.
Your executor should be someone you trust wholeheartedly as they will have access to sensitive financial information and will be responsible for carrying out your final wishes.
2. Organisational skills
Settlement of an estate involves a significant amount of paperwork, deadlines and coordination. An executor should be capable of managing these details efficiently with attention to detail.
3. Availability and location
Consider whether the person you have in mind has the time to commit to the role beyond their other day-to-day commitments, such as work and young children. Furthermore, consider their proximity to you and the beneficiaries. If they live far away, the travel time may complicate or even delay the process.
4. Age and health
While age alone isn’t a disqualifying factor, it’s essential to consider your executor’s health and longevity. You want someone who is likely to outlive you and remain in good health throughout the settlement process. Your executor must also be over the age of 18 at the time of appointment.
5. Financial and legal savviness
While your executor doesn’t need to be a financial expert, they should have a basic understanding of financial and legal matters, especially if you have a complex estate. This includes managing bank accounts, investments, taxes and property.
6. Ability and willingness
An executor should not only be able willing to be appointed the role, they should also be willing to consult with a lawyer to ensure they fulfil their duties accurately, especially in high value estates.
Can I choose a family member…and should I?
While it’s common for individuals to appoint a spouse, adult child or close friend, it’s crucial to consider potential conflicts of interest or additional emotional strain that the decision may cause. If you have multiple adult children, think about how selecting one child over another might affect relationships. Open communication with all involved parties can help manage expectations and prevent disputes down the road.
Can I choose more than one executor?
While you may legally appoint up to four executors for your will, it’s important to consider the impact this may have on the efficiency of administering your will. Too many decision makers may give greater scope to disagreement, therefore increasing the cost and time involved in administering your estate. If appointing more than one executor, it’s important to consider the relationship between the parties and their ability and willingness to work together.
It is advisable, however, to select a back-up executor in case your primary choice is unable to fulfil their duties when it comes time.
How do I officially appoint my executor?
Once you’ve identified the right person and asked their permission, it’s time to make it official. When drafting your will, clearly outline your chosen executor and ensure they are willing to take on the responsibility. Completing your will with Waters Lawyers will ensure all will and executor documentation is legally binding.
Review your choice periodically and update your will if circumstances change, such as a change in the relationship with your chosen executor or their circumstances.
Choosing the right person for the role is critical to ensure your final wishes are carried out smoothly and efficiently. Take the time to consider individuals who possess the necessary qualities and are willing to take on the responsibilities involved. By making an informed decision, you’re not only safeguarding your legacy but also providing peace of mind for your loved ones during a challenging time.