Can your solicitor act as your executor?
August 7, 2020 | Estate Administration, Wills

Choosing an executor for your Will is an important task and you will want to consider who is best suited for the role carefully.  In this blog, we will explain what is expected of an executor and the reasons why some individuals choose to appoint their solicitor as executor.

What does an executor do?

An executor is someone named in your Will, who takes responsibility for sorting out your estate and distributing your assets after you are gone

The tasks they will need undertake on your death will vary depending on the terms of your Will and the size and complexity of your estate.  Common executor tasks include:

  • notifying third parties of your death;
  • investigating the assets and debts in your estate;
  • applying for a grant of probate, submitting an inheritance tax return and paying any tax due;
  • collecting in your assets or their sale value.  This might include selling shares, closing bank accounts, selling or transferring property;
  • paying of any outstanding debts, taxes, legacies, funeral and administration expenses;
  • distributing what remains to the correct beneficiaries under your Will. If your Will sets up a trust, action will need to be taken to transfer assets into the trust and make decisions about the ongoing management of those assets.

How to decide who to appoint as your executor?

An executor can be anyone, even a beneficiary, over the age of 18.  Common executor appointments include family members and friends, although it is also possible to appoint your solicitor as a professional executor.

At Timbrell Law, we help our clients look at all their options when appointing an executor and what might be best to ensure the efficient administration of their estate.  This includes looking at their family dynamics, the size and complexity of their estate and how they ultimately want their assets distributed.

Why might you appoint your solicitor as your executor?

This will be a personal decision for you, but solicitors are often appointed for their experience in the following scenarios:

…to help support your family

The weeks and months following a death can be an emotional and difficult time.   Juggling the estate administration and grieving can often be too much for those left behind.  A professional executor can take on the responsibility of sorting out the estate allowing the deceased’s family time to mourn.

… if there is no-one willing or suitable to take on the role 

For those without close family or friends, appointing a professional allows them to set out their Will wishes and know that they will be carried out.

On the other hand, even with family available, they may be no-one suitable or willing to take on the role.  Acting as an executor is time consuming and mistakes can lead to personal liability; this is often off putting for those with busy lives of their own.

 … depending on the size and complexity of your estate

The larger and more complex your estate, the harder it will be to wind up.  A professional executor should have the legal knowledge and experience required to enable them to deal with the administration and shield the family from any unnecessary stress.

 … to ease family tensions

It is often difficult to family member to separate their emotions and act impartially as an executor; however, failing to do so can cause disagreements and tension during the estate administration.  Appointing a professional can avoid favouring one family member over another and accidentally reinforcing pre-existing tensions.  Similarly, a professional executor will be able to exert control in a way a family member could not, preventing an overbearing beneficiary disrupting the administration.

… if your Will is likely to be disputed

If there is a challenge to the validity of your Will or its effect, your executors will be expected to cooperate with the court and adopt a neutral approach.  This can be difficult for family members or friends.

What are the practical benefits for your family of having a solicitor as executor?

1 –  Avoiding costly mistakes

On the balance of probabilities, an executor who has no experience of estate administration is more likely to make mistakes than a professional executor. If a family member or friend is appointed and they make a mistake, the costs of having the court correct a mistake or recover wrongly distributed funds can be substantial.

 2 – The Time Factor

 Realistically your loved ones are busy people with hectic home and professional lives.  Dealing with a complete estate administration can be a full-time job lasting anywhere between 6 to 18 months+.

If the estate contains multiple assets dealing with a large number of organisations can quickly become confusing and important details can be overlooked if their attention is split.  By appointing a professional executor, they are able to give each task the attention it needs rather than letting the administration take over your family’s life.

 3 – Providing reassurance and relieving stress

Appointing a professional means that your family will know that the estate is in safe hands.  The professional executor can take full responsibility for dealing with each asset, paying off all outstanding debts and taxes and making sure the estate is distributed as per the Will.  They will then be able to sign off the estate reassuring your family that the tax and legal position is settled.  Plus, there is very little that can faze a probate solicitor.  We have seen it all before!

What is the cost of having your solicitor as your executor?

We cannot speak for all solicitors, but at Timbrell Law our fees are based on the actual time spent administering your estate. This means our fees will vary depending on factors like whether probate is needed, how many assets you have, what needs to be sold and whether inheritance tax is due.

If you are thinking of appointing a solicitor as your executor, they should give you a likely fee estimate based on your current asset position and talk through your options to ensure it is the best decision for your estate.

You can get further advice on making or updating your Will by getting in touch.  Please click here for our contact details.   We would be happy to help. 

If you would like our trusted solicitors to review your existing Will and provide advice, you can book a FREE WILL REVIEW here. 

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