24 June 2015
It is estimated that over half of UK adults have yet to make a Will. One factor that puts people off is that the drawing up of a Will requires some serious decision-making – not just in respect of who gets what, but also who is to be appointed to deal with the administration of your estate. You are free to nominate any person to act as your executor so you have a very wide choice. In practice a Grant of Probate won’t be made to a person under 18 or someone who lacks mental capacity so that narrows it down a bit, but the decision can still be a very difficult one.
First and foremost you should choose someone you know and trust who is reasonably competent when it comes to financial and administrative matters. You need to bear in mind that, while they can choose to engage professionals to help them, they will be responsible for a process that is going to take some months (and possibly a year or more). They may have some significant decisions to take and perhaps family disagreements to resolve.
You may want to appoint two executors (with possibly a third named as an alternative should either of the first two be unable to act). This covers you should one of your executors die before you do; it also allows for the burden to be shared (particularly relevant if one of your executors is a close family member who may struggle to deal with matters in the months immediately after your death). There is no reason why your executors can’t also be beneficiaries under your Will (but bear in mind that they shouldn’t then be witnesses).
There is no requirement to appoint a professional person (such as an accountant or solicitor) as an executor but this may be appropriate in some circumstances. You may feel that your chosen executor will need “hand-holding” and that you would prefer to appoint the person to whom you think they should turn for guidance; your affairs may be of such complexity that you feel that a professional (perhaps one who is already familiar with the detail) should be involved from the outset; there may be family disagreements such that you want the power to make decisions to rest with someone independent; and, finally, you may be struggling to identify anyone else suitable for the role.
Whoever you choose as your executors, talk to them beforehand so that you are sure that they will be willing to take on the task. If your affairs are complex, it makes sense to brief your executors while you are alive or to leave them a note setting out both some appropriate explanations and your wishes (if any) as to how they should approach particular issues.
Finally, bear in mind that if your marriage or civil partnership is dissolved or annulled any appointment of your former spouse/civil partner as executor lapses unless your Will expresses a contrary intention. You would therefore need to consider appointing new executors (and probably a new Will).
If you would like to discuss the details of this blog post further, please contact Mark Giddens from our London office or a tax adviser at your nearest location. Alternatively, you can complete our online contact form.