Choosing the right people to follow your wishes – Executors

Picking the right people to carry out the terms of your will is as important as what goes into it in the first place. Choosing people who are competent will make life a lot easier for your loved ones and beneficiaries.

Considering the people who will make your will work

If you want your friend or family member to act as an executor, trustee, or guardian, make sure that you’re 100 per cent certain that they are up to the task. You must carefully consider if you’re asking too much of them.

Talk the situation over with your nearest and dearest; be honest and upfront about what you’re looking fro, and stress to them that it’s okay to say no. You can set out what you want from these people in writing (a job description of sorts).

You must also make sure that you’re not asking too much from any professionals – accountants and solicitors – you might employ. Although you pay them, make sure that they are not advising beyond their capabilities.

Finally, if you decide to draw up your own will, are you asking too much of yourself? If you have complex tax and financial affairs, you might be biting off more than you can chew.

Choosing the Executor

When choosing the executor think organised, literate, numerate, trustworthy, good at handling money, an not afraid of a bit of hard work. Anyone can be an executor but they have to be at least 18 years old. In addition they must be of sound mind.

Executors may normally come from the following groups:

A beneficiary. The executor can be a close family friend or member of the immediate family, This has the big plus that your friend or relative will want to do right by you when you’ve gone. But be wary of appointing the family black sheep as your executor: Antagonism between the executor and the other beneficiaries can lead to delays and even legal challenges. Close family friend usually make good executors.

A professional adviser. A solicitor or an accountant should have both the experience and knowledge to deal with your estate. Relatives and friends that you appoint may never have acted as an executor before but a professional has probably played the part hundreds of times before. However, professionals cost money – and sometimes lots of it. Some charge a fee while other will want a percentage of the estate.

A bank. All high street banks offer an executor service but as you can guess they can charge quite a lot. Some high street banks levy a charge equivalent of 4% of the estate value to act as the executor.

The public trustee. If you don’t know anyone who can act as executor, you can appoint the Public Trustee to do the job. The Public Trustee is a Government body, set up under Act of Parliament, to deal with people’s estates. They charge fees (the more work they do, the higher the fees), and cannot execute wills that involve them running a charitable trust or managing a business.

An executor cannot be sacked, even if the beneficiaries and other executors want them out. Only a court can order an executor to step aside, and that only ever happens if they are deemed guilty of misconduct.

Your executor can claim their expenses from your estate, such as photocopying costs, buying stamps, and stationary. In addition, many people choose to leave their executor a small gift in their will, a thank you for all their hard work. Of course, if your executor is a substantial beneficiary or a professional receiving a fee, you may think that they had enough of your money.