The job of executor is an important one. It involves dealing with the winding-up of someone’s estate once they have died and then distributing their assets in accordance with their Will. We take a look at what is involved and how to go about choosing someone to take on the job.
The role of an executor
When someone makes a Will, they choose one or more executors to entrust with their affairs following their death.
When the time comes, the executor will need to collect in and value the estate’s assets then make an application to the Probate Office for a Grant of Representation. If a Will was made, then the documentation giving them authorisation to deal with the deceased’s affairs is called a Grant of Probate.
In the event that no Will was left, then the person making the application for a Grant of Representation is called an administrator and the authorisation is known as Letters of Administration.
It is the executor’s (or administrator’s) job to sell or transfer all of the assets in the estate. This can be time-consuming if the deceased had numerous bank accounts, shareholdings, investment accounts and other financial holdings.
The executor is also responsible for clearing and selling or transferring any property that the deceased may have owned.
Once all of the assets have been collected in and sold or transferred, the executor will need to prepare full estate accounts detailing all assets, expenditure and payment of debts. The estate can then be distributed in accordance with the Will to the named beneficiaries.
An executor can have personal liability for any mistakes they make which cause a loss to the estate, even if these were genuine errors.
This could include a mistake in calculations, misunderstanding of an ambiguous Will, failing to record and properly account for all of the assets, not properly transferring a property, not paying off all of the deceased’s debts or making mistakes in the distribution of the estate, for example, by releasing funds too early or not recording part-payments.
How to choose your executor
Because of the onerous nature of the job of executor and the fact that it is often extremely time-consuming and can take many months, it is important to choose your executor very carefully.
As well as being someone you trust implicitly, it should be someone whom you are confident has the ability to deal with the extensive paperwork and the understanding not to make mistakes.
It is often advisable to choose someone younger than you, as they may be more likely to cope with the role when the time comes, which could be when you are very elderly.
You can choose between one and four executors. It is usually recommended that you choose two executors, or one plus a replacement, in case someone is unable or unwilling to act when the time comes.
It is also advisable to discuss the appointment with your chosen executors to ensure that they are happy to take on the role.
If you do not have anyone who you believe could take on the role, then it is possible to appoint a professional executor. This is usually an experienced probate advocate who will be familiar with the process and who will have the time to devote to winding-up the estate with minimal delay.
It will also be open to your executor to appoint an advocate to deal with the administration on their behalf.
Making a Will is important. It means that you can leave your estate to exactly who you want and that you can choose executors, trustees and guardians whom you trust. It could also help your family avoid damaging disputes following your death. For more information about the benefits of making a Will, read our article Eight reasons why it’s important to have a valid Will.
At Quinn Legal, we can advise you on all aspects of making a Will and help you ensure that put the right structure and the right executors in place.
If you would prefer to make an online Will, our Online Will Service can be accessed here.