What does an Executor Do?
In general terms, the definition of an executor is considered to be the person or people who are responsible for sorting out a persons financial affairs after they have died. Strictly, they are only executors if they were appointed in the Last Will of the person who has died. The term “personal representative” is a wider term identifying executors in the wider sense.
You can appoint as many executors as you like – but a maximum of four executors can actually get involved in the work of probate. Parents (especially) would be best advised to appoint at least two alternative executors and trustees. If you have – or may have one day – young children the possibility always exists that they will be needed to look after funds held in trust for children until the date specified in the Will or the child’s eighteenth birthday. So do make sure that the people you appoint are young enough to reasonably be expected to deal with a serious job at least until your children are old enough to manage themselves – at the very least, 18.
Essentially, the executors sort everything out immediately after the death, and once they had done so, they hand over to the trustees if there is a long term job managing a property trust or a trust for children etc.
The trustees will need wide powers in relation to these funds, including power to advance money for maintenance or education of a beneficiary and power to invest
A Trustee is a person who is usually your Executor and is a person who holds your property on behalf of others while your estate is being administered. Frequently, Trustees are appointed to hold your estate for the benefit of infant children while they are under the age of eighteen.
Duties of Executors:
An executor is appointed in a will to administer the estate after the death. It is usual, and sensible; to seek the agreement of the executor before the appointment is made. After the death, the executors’ duties are defined in what is called ‘the executor’s oath.’ The duties are in general:
“To collect, get in, and administer according to law the estate of the deceased” in accordance with the terms of the will.
Often, executors make arrangements for the funeral, and when doing so, make themselves personally liable for the funeral account. If they do this they are entitled to be repaid by the estate. (Estate = assets of the deceased).
The extent to which an executor carries out his duties personally varies very widely. In some estates, there is very little to do beyond the closure and distribution of one or two building society accounts. Other estates can require substantially more work.
The Duties of Executors can be Delegated
The executor may choose to ask a firm of solicitors to carry out some or most of the work, or, indeed, if a firm of solicitors is so instructed, to agree between them who will do which tasks. Alternatively, they can ask The Probate Department Ltd to act and probably save 50 to 90% of the cost – depending on whether the family executors want to help or not. The executor can choose to delegate almost all the work to us or a solicitor, or to do the entire job him or herself, or to make any other arrangement in between.
At a minimum, however, the executor should expect to be involved in a certain amount of correspondence and signing of documents. It would be usual also for the executor to do much of the initial work of locating and identifying assets in the estate and also where there are gifts of particular items to arrange for the distribution of these items.
Whatever happens, an executor is entitled to have his proper expenses paid out of the estate, so the task should not normally be a financial burden. But only professional executors can be paid for their time, unless the Will says otherwise.
Where people do go wrong from time to time, is in under estimating the need to comply precisely with several of the law’s requirements. For example, it is common, but quite wrong, for executors to distribute items from the estate to family members but not in accordance with the terms of the will. ‘He always said I could have the clock.’ may be true, but if it isn’t what was said in the will, or memorandum of wishes, or written specifically elsewhere and which is mentioned in the will, it is incorrect for the executor to give the clock.
Last, it is perhaps worth dispelling the myth that the duties of the executor include the “reading of the will”, where the executors, solicitor, and beneficiaries gather together amid great suspense, and simmering acrimony, to reveal the contents of the will. This happens very rarely, if at all.
A question frequently asked is whether an executor can also be a beneficiary. The answer is yes, provided the Will contains the appropriate wording. However executors, beneficiaries, or the spouses of executors, beneficiaries, MUST not witness Wills as gifts to witnesses or their spouses will not be allowed to stand, Save for exceptional cases.
Alternative executors and trustees will be needed to look after funds held in trust for children until the date specified in the Will or the child’s eighteenth birthday. It is expected the trustees will need various powers in relation to these funds, including power to advance money for maintenance or education of a beneficiary and power to invest.
It is essential that you give to your executors all of the powers possible (available in law) to enable them to administer your estate properly. If your executor is also Trustee, you need, for example, to give your Executors special powers to invest cash, insure property and manage money for any infants. (children under 18)
YES. You may appoint a professional company (like us) or a member of your family or both to be the Executors of your last Will. Before deciding to appoint a professional company or Solicitor to be your Executor you should consider any charges which are likely to be made. You should make enquiries as to the amount of any charge before you decide to make a professional appointment of an Executor.
If you choose a member of your family to be an Executor please remember that the Executor may need to instruct professionals in any event, for example us, Solicitors, Accountants, or Stockbrokers and, if this is the case, you will need to ensure that your last Will does provide (legally) for your Executors to obtain monies from your estate to pay for any expert advice that may be needed.