Drafting a Will often presents many complexities for the testator to consider. It's a necessary and worthwhile endeavour for most people because without a Will the estate will be subjected to the rules of intestacy and the deceased will not have any say in how their wealth and assets are distributed

One of the key decisions for the testator to make is who to assign as executor. The role of the executor carries a lot of responsibility and is not something to just be dished out at random.

Simply put, an executor is a person who will carry out the testator's wishes as specified in the Will. Between one and four executors can be chosen, but two is the most common.

More often than not, executors will be the deceased's children or spouse, and they will usually also be a beneficiary of the Will. But there is a criteria that needs to be met before someone is deemed a suitable executor. An executor must meet the following standards:

  • They must be of sound mind
  • They are honest and trustworthy
  • They are likely to outlive the testator
  • They are familiar with financial proceedings

What it means to be appointed

If you have been chosen to be the executor of a Will, there are a few things you should be aware of. While it may be flattering to have been among the person's top choices of people to trust – after all, they are entrusting you with handling their legacy, hardly a decision they would have taken lightly – administrating someone's estate can be tricky business. There are a number of duties to take on board, some of which may seem overwhelming if you are not prepared for them.

Primarily, your job is to make sure that the right beneficiaries receive the right assets, as stated in the Will. You must also see to it that all the testator's debts are paid before carrying out their wishes. Liability for unpaid debts rests on the executor's shoulders, so it is a good idea to make sure you are covered when it comes to identifying any creditors. A good probate solicitor will know exactly how to handle this, and all the other requirements, but an advert placed in the London Gazette notifying creditors of the testator's death and giving them two months to come forward with claims is an effective way of doing this.

As well as making the appropriate funeral arrangements, you will also need to inform the necessary parties of the death, including public utilities suppliers, insurance companies, building societies, stockbrokers, and employers where applicable. Suitable arrangements need to be made for any pets and valuable possessions left in the deceased's property so that they're looked after until they can be passed on to the correct beneficiary, and mail has to be redirected, too.

If there are other people besides you who have been chosen as executors, which is a very likely possibility, then it is important that you are all able work together with the shared goal of honouring the Will the best you can. Obviously, it is a good idea to meet with your fellow executors to decide how you will delegate and carry out each of your duties.

Remember that just because you were chosen as an executor, it doesn't make you legally obligated to do anything. It is perfectly acceptable for you to refuse the responsibility if you do not feel up to traversing the complexities of the probate process, especially since you are already facing a difficult time of bereavement. There are a number of circumstances that could affect your decision to reject the role, and it's completely your choice, as long as you realise that what you choose will be final. It is very unusual for a court to reinstate executor duties to someone once they've officially given them up, so think carefully before going through with it.

Renouncing your responsibility will also be impossible if you have already intermeddled with the estate; carrying out any of the above steps (aside from making funeral arrangements) and thus showing intent to administer the estate will mean that you have automatically accepted your executor duty.

A helping hand

The role of an executor is made a lot easier with the help of an experienced probate lawyer. If you are worried about the complexities concerning the Will and probate process, then a specialist solicitor can make things much clearer. It's always an option well worth considering, and at Oratto we can help you find the probate specialist lawyer who is the right fit for your case.

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

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