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Choosing the Right Executor for Your Will: Key Considerations

Woman sitting at a desk doing accounts and completing estate administration forms as part of her role as an executor of a Will.
AUTHOR: Graham Southorn

When you’re writing your Will, or getting one written for you, choosing the right executor is a crucial decision. In this article, we will explore some key considerations to help you make an informed choice when appointing one or more executors.

An executor is the person responsible for carrying out the instructions outlined in your Will and ensuring that your final wishes are fulfilled.

In an ideal world, your chosen executor will have the following characteristics: trustworthiness, availability, financial acumen, impartiality, conflict-resolution skills, and knowledge of legal and administrative processes.

Trustworthiness and integrity

One of the most important qualities to look for in an executor is trustworthiness. This person will have access to your financial and personal information, so you need someone you can rely on to act honestly and with integrity. Consider individuals who have demonstrated responsibility and acted ethically in their personal and professional lives.

Availability and willingness

It’s essential to choose an executor who is likely to be both available and willing to take on the responsibilities involved. Administering an estate can be time-consuming, so the person you appoint in your Will must be able to dedicate the necessary time and effort. It’s always advisable to discuss the role with potential executors to gauge their willingness and availability before making a final decision.

Financial knowledge

Managing the financial aspects of your estate is a key responsibility of an executor. You need someone with basic financial literacy and an understanding of budgeting, accounting, and record-keeping. Professional expertise isn’t mandatory but it can be beneficial, especially for complex estates.

Impartiality and conflict-resolution skills

Choosing an executor who can remain impartial is very helpful, especially if there is potential for family conflicts or disputes among beneficiaries of the Will. An executor should be able to navigate such situations diplomatically and resolve conflicts with fairness and sensitivity. Consider someone who can act as a neutral party and facilitate smooth communication among family members.

Knowledge of legal and administrative processes

It’s not necessary for the executor to be a legal expert but familiarity with the probate process and other administrative requirements can help. It would ensure that your estate settlement proceeds smoothly and efficiently. Executors can also seek legal guidance when needed, so having a basic understanding of legal matters is beneficial.

Age and health considerations

Selecting an executor who is significantly younger, or in good health compared to yourself, is advisable. This decision helps ensure that the executor will be available when the time comes to administer your estate. It’s also a good practice to name a second executor in case your primary choice can’t fulfil the role when the time comes.

In my experience

When I’m writing Wills for clients in Bristol, I often find that clients want to appoint family members as executors. It’s common, and perfectly legal, to appoint beneficiaries of the Will. So typically, a couple with two children would appoint both as executors.

It’s usually best to appoint more than one executor so that there’s at least one person to take up the reigns if the others can’t. It’s not just that an executor might have passed away. Someone might be living abroad for a few months, or might be in hospital and unable to act.

I encourage my clients to appoint reserve executors who could act if nobody else was available. This can include a professional executor – a suitably qualified person who would be paid for their time. This is usually a company rather than an individual.

For some people, appointing a professional executor as their main executor makes sense. But if you are having a Will made by a legal firm, don’t let them bully you into adding themselves as professionals. Your family would then have no choice to use them – at their rates – and would not be able to shop around.

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The information contained in these articles is for general interest purposes only. We take every precaution to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing but errors can occur. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in the information. Bristol Wills & Estate Planning Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any results obtained from the use of this information. You should never rely on the information in these articles as a substitute for professional legal advice, whether from Bristol Wills & Estate Planning or any other legal service or professional.

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