Appointing an executor or a trustee

The executor is written into your will as the person who is responsible for managing your estate after your death and handing out that estate according to the conditions of your will.

The executor has the task of collecting and securing your assets, paying all the applicable taxes and debts, acquiring the grant of probate, selling any items to raise funds and finally distribute your assets to the heirs.

Sometimes, money is not handed directly to all your beneficiaries but kept for their own benefit. This usually happens when the beneficiary is a minor or if the person receiving the gift has to fulfil a certain condition such as completing university.

If that is the case, the money is paid to the person appointed as the trustee.

It could be a sound strategy to make your trustee and executor the same person when writing your will. The trustees will then have the responsibility of keeping the funds and making sure that they are secure.

Sometimes the trustees may be empowered to distribute the funds partially or fully to the beneficiaries, or to be used for the benefit of the beneficiaries, as long as it is done in their best interests.

At least one executor should be appointed to carry out your instructions but in many cases it is common to appoint two. You may want to appoint two executors if your beneficiaries include young children who may be under 18 upon your death.

It could be prudent to also appoint a replacement executor in case one of the executors named in the will is unable or unwilling to act.

When choosing an executor, the main consideration is that the individual is reliable and trustworthy to correctly carry out your wishes. It would also be useful if at least one of the executors personally knows one or more beneficiaries in the will.

One of the best ways to assign the executors is to make the person who would gain the most from your will as one executor and a relative or close friend as the other executor so that he or she may step in if the first executor cannot act for any reason.

Keep in mind that your executors have to be over 18 years of age. You need a mature and reliable person to take on the demanding responsibilities of an executor.

Also make sure to check with your prospective executors before making your will to make certain that they are willing to act.