Choosing who you wish to implement the terms of your Will can be a difficult decision. After all, this is the person you will trust to ensure that your estate is administered according to your wishes. An executor is a person who is appointed by someone who is making a Will (also known as the testator) to carry out their instructions as set out in their Will.
If you have been appointed as an executor, several considerations should be borne in mind. Firstly, as an executor you will be taking on personal liability, it is important to ensure that you know what you are doing if you decide to proceed without obtaining any legal advice. Next, you should consider whether this is actually a role you are willing or able to take on. Acting as an executor can be complex and time-consuming.
Dependent on the value of a deceased person’s estate and whether any Inheritance Tax is payable, an executor will be responsible for dealing with HM Revenue & Customs and ensuring that any tax due on the estate is paid on time. As a general rule of thumb, it is our recommendation that accountants handle the income tax and Capital Gains reporting (if required). However, they will still need you, as executor, to provide them with the relevant information and sign off on the paperwork required.
In addition to attending to any Inheritance Tax matters, all of the estate’s assets will need to be ascertained and ingathered. An executor will also need to identify any outstanding debts to be paid and deal with the payment of these timeously and effectively.
If the testator made provision for legacies to be paid, the executor will also require to attend to payment of these. Dependent upon the value of the estate and if the estate is comprised of more than just cash, decisions about how to satisfy the Will legacies may be required, whether this be selling or transferring the assets. Different tax consequences can follow depending on the choices which are made.
Perhaps, most importantly, all of the beneficiaries of a Will need to be located and contacted regarding what has been left to them and this is another responsibility that the executor must deal with. If the address details of beneficiaries are unknown and there is no way to contact them, it may be necessary to instruct a tracing agent to locate the relevant beneficiaries. Again, this is the executor’s responsibility.
If you find yourself appointed as an executor under a Will, it is crucial to consider whether this is a role you are able to perform effectively. Seeking advice from a solicitor specialising in executry work will be a key part of this decision. The legal costs which a solicitor charges will be a post-death estate expense which will be deductible from the estate and not payable by you personally.
Should you wish to discuss the appointment of an executor in your Will or, if you now require to act as executor but aren’t sure where to turn, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Wills and Executries team who would be pleased to assist.