Unlike in Hollywood films, with families gathered in a wood panelled room, with the Executor sitting at a leather table reading the recently deceased’s Will aloud and delivering the news of which members are to receive assets from the Estate. In the UK, the reality is somewhat different.
Although we do not have ‘Will readings’ as such, it is still the role of an Executor to be responsible for the administration of an Estate and to carry out the deceased’s wishes.
The role of an Executor
An Executor is a lay person, legal professional or trust corporation who is instructed to ensure the wishes in your Will are followed. There can be a maximum of four Executors appointed under a Will, and it is common for people to appoint ‘back up’ Executors who can stand in for those who are unable to act. It is important to choose Executors who have integrity, honesty, and whom you trust implicitly as in some situations, they could be asked to make very important and difficult decisions.
If you have created a Discretionary Trust Will, your assets named in the Trust are to be held and distributed in accordance with your letter of wishes. While this seems straightforward, the letter of wishes is not strictly enforceable and used more as guidance for Executors. It is therefore paramount that the Executors you choose, are people you are certain will follow your wishes, but, if necessary, deviate from the letter of wishes should the need arise and make a decision that you would have agreed with.
Family relationships are complicated, and you may feel uncomfortable giving your children the responsibility of being an Executor, in fear that this could instigate interfamily feuding and result in an unfair distribution of your Estate. An alternative would be to appoint a close friend, but some feel that regardless of their close relationship with a friend, they would not be comfortable with them knowing the ins and outs of their financial situation.
Seeking legal help
It is in circumstances like this that choosing a legal professional as an Executor is seen as the favourable option. A solicitor is not only professionally bound to act with integrity, but their impartiality can be advantageous when faced with interfamily distribution disputes and the need to make difficult, impartial decisions.
Solicitors who are nominated as Executors have access to many legal resources that can assist with the administration of an Estate.
In cases where a Will is contested, the solicitor acting as an Executor would also have contacts with Legal Counsel, diminishing the effectiveness of the contest. This is not a guarantee, but if the Will was written by the same Solicitor you have nominated as an Executor, they should have extensive notes about a clients’ family background, their decision on the distribution of the Estate and their mental health, all of which would provide good evidence should the Will ever become contested.
Should you require advice or assistance on appointing Executors or wish to discuss making a will, please contact our Private Client department on 01242 801748 or visit here.