An executor is someone who is legally responsible for carrying out the instructions outlined in a Will and is accountable for dealing with the estate of the person who’s passed away. Typically you will be told when you are named as an executor when the Will is written.
Who can be an executor
Being an executor can be a lot of work. Dealing with an estate is quite in-depth and can take several months, and it is also a very emotional time.
Legally, anyone over the age of 18 can be an executor. It can be a friend or family member and they can be a beneficiary of the Will. The executor doesn’t have to be related to you but should be someone you trust and who is willing to take on the responsibility of dealing with your estate.
You can pick more than one executor of your Will; up to 4 executors can be named on the application for probate. You don’t have to choose more than one, but it is advisable to do so in the case one of them passes away. You may also wish to select a legal representative such as a solicitor.
What are the responsibilities of an executor
They have overall responsibility for the estate of the person who has passed away. The first step for an executor is to find the original Will, a copy is not acceptable; it must be the original signed document.
Other responsibilities could consist of:
- Registering the death and sending the death certificate to the bank and other financial institutions of the deceased.
- Applying for probate – For more information on probate, check out our blog here
- Pay any outstanding debts and fees
- Arrange the funeral if the Will has any specific wishes
- Work out any Inheritance tax due and pay it from the estate
- Collect all assets and money due to the estate of the person who has dies
- Distribute the estate to the people who are entitled to it as outlined in the Will
What happens if I don’t want to be an executor
It is possible that someone who is named as an executor doesn’t wish to perform the executor tasks; in this case, there are two options:
- Give up the right to apply for probate by filling out a renunciation form and send it with the probate application form.
- Appoint an attorney to act on your behalf who can administer the estate.
If no other executors are named on the Will, the probate office will appoint someone to be the executor.
Once you have started the process of probate and administration of the estate, you cannot step down unless you have a good reason such as Ill health or a family emergency.
Can an executor change the Will
There is a possibility for an executor to change a Will, this can be done by filling out a variation form. An amendment to the Will can be undertaken because:
- Clarify uncertainty over the Will
- Settle a new claim against the estate
- To ensure someone left out of the Will is taken care of
- To reduce the amount of inheritance tax or capital gains
Can an executor refuse to pay a beneficiary
The executor is responsible for following out the instructions in the Will as these are the wishes of the person who has passed away, but there could be some exceptional circumstances (where all executors must agree) and funds are withheld; some examples of this could be:
- The executor thinks the beneficiary could be vulnerable, such as having a gambling addiction, mental health issues, or alcohol addiction. The money in this case can be passed into a trust.
- If unknown debts arise that need to be settled first
- The beneficiary is a child. If there are concerns over the welfare of a child, the money can be placed into a trust until they are 18.
An executor has a high level of trust and responsibility placed on them by the person who has appointed them in their Will. It is not an easy job, but as an appointed executor they have the wishes of someone who has passed away to uphold.
The best way to ensure that someone carries out your wishes is to check they are happy to take on responsibility when you write the Will and name them as your executor. For more information about professional will writing, you can contact us
If you need help carrying out the job of the executor of a Will then you can also contact Citizens advice