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Will and Estate Planning- FAQ: Executors

What is an executor?

An executor is a person named in a will who sorts out the estate of the person who has died. The  estate is everything one owns, including money, property and possessions.

What are they responsible for and what does an executor do?

An executor has a number of responsibilities including:

•  making sure the property owned by the person who has died is secure, as soon as possible after the death

• collecting all assets and money due to the estate of the person who has died

• paying any outstanding taxes and debts out of the estate

•  distributing the estate to the people who are named as beneficiaries in the will.

Can an executor be a beneficiary?

An executor can be a beneficiary of the will though they do not witness the will otherwise they will not be entitled to receive their legacy under the terms of the will.

What power does the executor have?

Essentially the right to manage and distribute the estate of a deceased person. They manage the estate and distribute it to beneficiaries.

Who can be/can’t be an executor?

Anyone aged over 18 can be an executor and may apply for probate. There are some restrictions however if the person lacks mental capacity,  is the former spouse or civil partner of the deceased, is bankrupt, insolvent or in prison, they cannot be the executor.

What are executors’ duties to beneficiaries?

•  Distributing the legacies (whether specific items, cash sums or residue)

•  Distributing the residue of the estate to the beneficiaries

•  Following  the deceased person’s wishes as closely as possible.

•  Preparing and distributing estate accounts to interested parties 

What is the executor of the will entitled to?

The general rule is that an executor or administrator is entitled to reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred in relation to the administration of the estate. This might include travelling and postage expenses but not time off work. 

What are key problems with executors and what can be done about it?

From my experience you can have problems with executors not communicating, not distributing or just simply holding money for their own benefit. There are some very specific legal measures you can take to deal with inept or difficult executors, an experienced probate solicitor can help you with this

Do executors have to follow the will?

Subject to any possible legal claims (such as Inheritance claims) and there is sufficient money in the estate yes, they do.

What happens if there is no executor?

If there is no executor, it does not affect the validity of your will. One of the beneficiaries will need to make application for a Grant of Letters of Administration with the Will Annexed. There is a set order of entitlement to such a grant. There is a set order but the person who is entitled to the residue of the estate (i.e. the person who has been left the remains of the estate) has the prior entitlement. As has probably been illustrated when it comes to the execution of a will and dealing with probate matters things can quickly become quite complicated and it is important to get expert advice in order to for things to run smoothly.