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Acting as an executor

Acting as an executor is not an everyday experience. You may be appointed because you are a relative, a friend or in a professional capacity. Before being appointed you may have heard of the term ‘executor’, but do you know what the role entails?

Who is the executor and what do they do?

Essentially, your executor is the person named in your will to administer your estate after you die. They apply for a grant of probate, which gives them permission from the court to carry out the terms of your will. Your executor will only carry out the wishes in your will of movable estate, as your will of immovable estate does not require you to appoint an executor. You are able to appoint anyone you wish as your executor – including a beneficiary or a loved one.  However, they can turn it down if they don’t wish to take up the appointment.

No professional qualifications are required to act as an executor, however professional help from lawyers and accountants may be needed for complex estates.

Your executor must locate your will and establish the assets and liabilities of the estate. They will then obtain a grant or probate from the court which is a formal acknowledgement that they can administer the estate of the deceased.  Many institutions require a grant before they will transfer assets over to your executor.

In general it will take anywhere between two to four months to gather the background material and obtain the grant.

Once the grant has been obtained the executor will then pay the liabilities and distribute the assets in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

Are there any benefits to being a loved one’s executor?

If you have been appointed and you understand the role and the extent of the work involved, it allows you to have greater control over your loved one’s assets, ensuring that they are dealt with correctly. Taking on the role yourself would also mean less expense is incurred, as professional fees would not be charged. It can also be extremely rewarding to carry out a loved one’s final wishes.

What about any downsides?

There are certainly other aspects of the role that must be considered. If you’re not aware that you have been appointed as a loved one’s executor or if the estate is highly complicated, you may not want, or feel able, to take on the role. In a time of sadness and mourning, being in charge of administering an estate can be the last thing you want to be dealing with. If a certain family member is appointed and others are not, for example only one of two children, this may lead to family arguments as the person not appointed could feel left out or want to have more control than they have been given. As the executor, it would be down to you to make the final decisions and to exercise your authority over estate assets.

Is there another option?

If you have been appointed as a loved one’s executor and it is a role you do not feel you can take on by yourself, it is possible to instruct professional executors to manage the estate on your behalf. Some professional executors are also happy to provide legal advice to those acting as executors where disagreements or complications arise.

If you are thinking of making a will, it is worth considering appointing professional executors if you know that administering your estate could be a complicated or complex matter perhaps due to the nature, value or extent of your assets.

Advice for when you are appointing your own executor:

  • Take into consideration how complex your estate is. If you know your estate is going to be complicated to administer, you may want to appoint a professional to take on the role.
  • If you do decide to appoint a loved one as an executor, make sure you tell them you have done so. Not only will this ensure that they are not surprised at unexpectedly being appointed, but it will also give them time to find out more about the role and what exactly will be required of them.
  • It is wise to appoint no more than two executors. Any more than this could result in difficulties or delays in arranging for all of them to sign relevant paperwork, particularly if they don’t all live in the same place or country. It may also cause disputes when it comes to decision making.
  • Make sure both you and your chosen executor know the extent of the work involved. This way, you will have peace of mind knowing your assets are being handled by a loved one who has knowledge of your estate and knows exactly what is expected of them.

Should you require further information or want to know more about our in-house professional executorship company, Viberts Executors Limited, please do not hesitate to call our friendly personal law department on: +44 (0) 1534 632263. Together we can look at your personal circumstances and advise on the best solution for you.

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