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Choose your executors wisely

by Ridley&Hall in Hilary Sisson, Jill Waddington, Probate & Estate Administration, Sue Cash, Wills posted February 26, 2013.

It is important to choose your executors wisely. It is an executor’s responsibility to deal with the administration of your estate after your death and it is usually recommended you appoint at least two executors in case one of them is unable to act due to their age, health or geographical location.

Anybody aged 18 or above can be an executor of your Will. A good idea is to choose a friend or family member and a professional, such as a solicitor. One of the advantages of choosing a professional executor is that you can get someone with specialist knowledge involved. It can also prevent an array of problems occurring where an executor acts outside their power. The following case highlights just one such issue.

A gentleman placed his entire estate in trust for his only child who was to inherit the money when she turned 21. He appointed his sister as his sole executrix. After his sudden death, his executrix spent over £30,000 of the inheritance for her own use within months of his death.

This was reported to the Police and led to an 8 month sentence for the executrix who did not realise she was personally liable in respect of the ways monies are applied.

The executrix incorrectly believed that she was entitled to spend some of the money in her capacity as the executrix. However there were no provisions made for her under her brother’s Will and she did not seek any legal advice in respect of her role.

This story shows the importance of choosing somebody that you trust and who understands they have to administer the estate strictly in accordance with the Will. If a solicitor had been appointed he or she would have ensured all monies pass to the rightful beneficiary.

If you do decide to elect friends or family members to be your executors, you must ensure they understand their role and the fact that they are accountable to the Court if they act with impropriety.  This may not be intentional as they will also be dealing with the loss of a loved one. As well as dealing with the grief of your death, they will also have to deal with the burden of extensive financial documentation and tax accounts.

It is extremely important to choose lay executors who can work together and get along with each other. Some people appoint individuals from different backgrounds who may never have met (e.g brother-in-law and aunt). They may never have met prior to your death and may have differing viewpoints in respect of the best way to deal with the administration of your estate.

In worst case scenarios co-executors have been known to fall out over who should be doing what, leading to needless arguments, resentment and acrimony. This has ended in unnecessary legal fees as separate solicitors are instructed in the last instance to untangle months of problems that have been building up.
Ideally your executors should know each other, be aware of their role and be able to work together during an intensely difficult time.

Choosing a solicitor as one of your executors is a good idea. They are trustworthy and experienced and they know their way around legal, tax and property issues.

For further information contact Nosheen Bukhari , she is a solicitor who specialises in Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorneys and Probate matters. She speaks fluent Punjabi and Urdu and is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly on 01484 538 421.

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