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Do I Need an Executor For my Will?

By Associate, Wills, Tax, Trusts and Probate

Considering what would happen to your loved ones in the event of your death is not pleasant but without proper planning the reality could be a lot worse. However, having an executor of your will can put your mind at ease.

What is an executor of a will?

An executor of a will is an individual who has been appointed to take responsibility of someone’s estate in the event of their death.

Your estate is everything that you own at the date of your death. This can be anything from money, your house to a car, pet or even smaller items like a piece of jewellery.

Executors will then take on the responsibility of carrying out the deceased individuals last wishes, making sure they are fulfilled. This will include making sure everyone who has been identified as a ‘beneficiary’ of the estate, receives their inheritance.

What does an executor of a will have to do?

Following the person's death the executor must deal with a number of matters concerning the estate. These issues will include:

  • Establishing any special directions by the deceased as to how they wish to be laid to rest or if they wish for their body to be donated for medical research
  • Collecting all of their assets
  • Evaluate the size of the estate and the amount of any liability to inheritance tax
  • Paying outstanding debts incurred by the deceased
  • Making sure the will is filed in the appropriate court
  • Setting up a bank account for the estate
  • Identify the beneficiaries and the nature and extent of their entitlement
  • Keeping the assets safe until they can be distributed to the right people.
  • Paying the final income taxes

Who is usually an executor of a will?

The executor of your will can be anyone you see fit and competent to take on the responsivity of handing your estate. This can include a firm of solicitors.

If you appoint a spouse or civil partner and the marriage or civil partnership ends, their time as your executor will also desist unless you otherwise state so within the will.

Why do I need an executor of a will?

If your will does not mention an executor, then one of the beneficiaries will have to step forward as a personal representative of the estate. If it cannot be decided who will be the personal representative then the probate court will appoint someone to be your personal representative. There are a list of priorities a court will take into consideration when appointing this person and it may not result in being the individual you would have chosen.

How do you appoint an executor of a will?

Executors are appointed by stating their name in a valid will. Before appointing the person in the legal document you should notify them to make sure that they are happy to be appointed and that their contact details are up to date.

What can I do if there is a dispute over the executor of a will? Can I challenge it?

A solicitor can help you try and resolve a dispute informally, keeping it out of court. If disputes cannot be informally resolved then executors may apply to the court for directions. The court has the power to revoke or issue a grant in favour of one executor over the other.

If the beneficiaries are not satisfied with the executors dealing with the estate the court can, in extreme cases, cause the executor to be replaced. If there are two or more, the court may decide to terminate one or more but not all of the executors.

Precious Igbokwe is an associate solicitor in our wills team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.