When preparing a will, choosing the right executor is an important decision. They have the responsibility of applying for probate and then administering and distributing your estate. The ideal executor will have time, an eye for detail, the skills of a diplomat and the stamina of a long distance runner.
Being an executor is not a task for the faint hearted. Ask anyone who has lived through it and they’ll tell you that the duties can be difficult, stressful and time consuming.
Any person with mental capacity over the age of 18 years can be appointed as an executor. Children can also be appointed as executors, but they are unable to act until they are 18 years of age. Beneficiaries can also be appointed but remember, they have to be available when the time comes, so avoid appointing elderly people or those who live far away.
When considering potential executors it is critical to choose someone who is capable and trustworthy. Who you choose will depend on:
- The complexity your financial and family affairs
- The skills of the potential candidates
- The likelihood the executor will have to deal with disputes over the estate
- The likelihood that the executor will have a conflict of interest because they are a beneficiary and also manage the estate, or others in the family perceive favouritism.
The most common choices are:
- wife, husband, partner or children
- professional adviser, usually a solicitor or accountant
- friend of the family, often a solicitor, accountant or business person
- trustee company.
It is preferable to have more than one executor, and/or have a backup executor in case one executor dies or is unable to act. Alternatively, you can nominate a firm of lawyers or a trustee company, but it is important that you enquire about their fees and charges beforehand.