Why you should choose your executors with care

Why you should choose your executors with care


Executors are appointed in a Will.  Their job is to manage the person’s estate after he dies.  They obtain Probate; the assets in the estate are transferred to the executors and from the executors on to the beneficiaries named in the Will.  An executor can also be a beneficiary.

We have been instructed by the main beneficiary of Mr X’s Will.  Mr X appointed a professional contact as his executor. The executor is not a beneficiary but would have been paid for his work.  Unfortunately the executor disappeared.  We tried to find him but without success.  We suspect he has left the UK.

If someone who is appointed as executor chooses not to act they can simply step down by signing a document. If they die and there is no named alternative the beneficiaries are allowed to act as administrators in their place.

It is altogether harder where the person cannot be found, or does not respond to attempts to contact him.  Then it is necessary to go to court and “clear off” the executor.  This will take a few months, and cost several hundred pounds in legal fees.

The lesson is to choose your executors with care.  Ideally they will be likely to outlive you, and their relationship with you and your beneficiaries will be strong, so they will be willing to take on the work involved in being executor.  They can claim expenses, and they can charge if they are appointed in a professional capacity.  If they are not professionals or natural beneficiaries of the Will some people choose to leave them something as a thank you.

In an ideal world your executors will be your beneficiaries, close family or friends.  Occasionally there is no-one suitable to take on the role.  In that case we recommend that you nominate a firm of lawyers, likely to be around when the time comes and they are needed.

Whatever you do avoid appointing an individual who might choose to leave the country without a forwarding address.