What is an Executor?
Someone appointed within a Will to “execute” that Will i.e. to ensure the directions given within the Will are actually carried out or “to make sure it all happens”.
As a person making a Will, your first thought in selection of any Executor should be “Do I Trust him/her?” This is the single most important consideration as you are giving that person all your worldly goods to “deal with” according to your wishes as expressed through your Will. They must be over 18 years of age, and the maximum number you may comfortably and realistically appoint is four. This is actually the maximum number allowed to apply for a Grant of Probate, and although the law is not specific about maximum numbers of Executors per se, it is unrealistic to expect four or more persons to meet and agree – a bit like a Committee in fact!
Executors may be “professional” persons or “lay” persons (non-professional persons). The latter is someone who is not engaged in the execution of Wills as a profession or job, so could be anyone over eighteen years of age, known by you, and most importantly of all, someone whom you trust implicitly.
A professional person is someone who is engaged in the execution of Wills as a career – is routinely engaged in that activity as part of his firm’s services offered to its clients. Usually either a solicitor, accountant or a banker, professional Executors offer such services to their clients as part of their Will Writing services – some of which are advertised as being “free”. Whilst the Will offered to clients may indeed be without any charge, it is usually only the simplest of Wills and MAY not offer sufficient protection for the clients’ needs. It may also not be “free” in reality, because the solicitor, accountant or banker has appointed his firm as Executor to your “free” Will at a cost prevailing at the time of your death. For the biggest difference between lay and professional Executors is that professionals can legally charge fees for their work, whereas lay persons can not – apart from “reasonable expenses.
Fees for the execution of Wills and completion of Estate Administration through the probate process to Grant of Probate vary enormously, but are usually based on a percentage of the value of the Estate being dealt with. It is not uncommon for such percentages charged by these professional persons to be 4-5% of the nett value rising in extreme, but not that rare cases to 8-9%. Therefore, as there is NO legal compunction to appoint a professional person in this capacity, we strongly recommend you first consider the appointment of lay persons.
If you are struggling to find lay persons whom you trust because your family is sparse, or you don’t want to appoint anyone you know, or all your trusted loved ones are no longer around or they live abroad, you may be forced in to the appointment of professionals. If that is the case, we recommend you consider Trust Corporations who operate in a different way. Unlike solicitors, accountants and banks they do not charge fees as a percentage of the value of the Estate. They give a fixed fee quotation following a meeting with the deceased’s family. This quote will not be varied under any circumstances and if the family are not in agreement over the appointment, they will relinquish their appointment – something else solicitors, accountants and banks are very unwilling to do. In comparison, their fees generally equate to about 1.5 – 2.0% of the nett Estate value.
You may also appoint, if you wish, substitute Executors. These are persons who will step in to take up an Executor’s position if the original appointee has died or is otherwise unable or unwilling to take up his/her appointment. Your considerations in such appointments should be equally prudent of course.
Most reputable Companies offering Will Writing services will give you the chance to review your documentation on a regular basis to enable you to update your requirements in line with constantly changing values, circumstances and other material issues. My Company offers this facility every two years and will remind you as a matter of course that a review is due. If you do not need it at that point, simply call us at the point when it is needed. Any subsequent alterations to documentation may be chargeable dependent upon complexity, but simple changes of address and the like are free of charge.
Finally, it is worth noting that if a Trust is written within a Will, the appointed Executors will automatically assume the roles of Trustees to that Trust. This will involve the setting up and management of the Trust as specified. Sometimes, different Trustees are appointed for different purposes, but this is quite rare. It could be for example that the Testator (person making the Will), wants his accountant to deal with his business affairs, but his best friend to deal with his personal affairs, In this circumstance, he may choose to appoint different Executors for those two different purposes.