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The Tricky Decision Of Appointing A Will Executor

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 1 Apr 2011 | comments*Discuss
Appointing An Executor Will Testator

Making a will at some stage in your life is a normal event. But appointing an executor is not a decision to be made without some serious consideration.

The Duties Of A Will Executor

An executor has many responsibilities, including dealing with the financial wishes made by the testator, the person who has made the will. An executor may have to settle debts, create trusts and distribute the testator’s assets amongst nominated individuals. Executors may also have to inform the next of kin of the death, register the death, deal with house sales and tax if required. An executor does hold a position of responsibility, and in some cases this is not an easy role to fulfil. The testator should be sure of the intended person’s ability to carry out these duties when making their choice.

Appointing An Executor

Practically anybody over 18 can become an executor. In some families the eldest child will be chosen for the task. Alternatively, it may be that another member of the family or a friend is financially minded, and has had experience in dealing with this type of situation. If a testator has no immediate family, there may be no alternative but to appoint an executor from trusted friends or relatives. More than one person can be named as an executor, and it is also possible for a solicitor or accountant to take on this responsibility.

Family Disagreements When Appointing An Executor

An executor will usually be informed of the role and consulted before the will is made. This can sometimes cause trouble if another member of the family thinks they have a right to be executor. Family squabbles over this decision are not uncommon. Often only the executor and the testator of the will know who has been nominated. This can help to avoid family arguments and stop any pressure being placed on the testator over their choice.

Executors As Peacemakers

Family disagreements over how the assets of the deceased are distributed can be commonplace. One of the duties of the executor should be to play peacemaker. An executor may not only find that they are resented as the chosen party, but that they are held responsible if heirs don't receive what they consider rightfully theirs. An executor should have the capability to stay calm when dealing with disgruntled family members over the contents of a will. They should remember that the death of a loved one may lead to dependents not acting as reasonably as they normally would.

Personal Attributes Of The Executor

The person named as an executor should be trustworthy and reliable. They should also be financially minded and, if possible, have previous experience in dealing with financial matters of this nature. Although these are desired qualities, an inexperienced person can be appointed executor. In this case it will be helpful for an inexperienced person to be able to liaise with a solicitor on the matter. The executor may wish to delegate some of the responsibilities to a solicitor or another family member.

Help With Appointing An Executor Of A Will

Choosing an executor can be tricky, and favouritism and conflicts of interest should be considered. These points may help when selecting an executor:

  • A spouse as a sole executor is not the best choice, especially if both husband and wife are elderly.
  • Many people do not appoint benefactors as an executor in case others claim there is a conflict of interest.
  • The executor should ideally have some financial experience, and be a responsible and trustworthy person.
  • A business-minded person may also be a good choice as an executor.
  • The chosen person should be informed of the decision in order to agree to the role.
  • Legally, the executor must be over 18, of sound mind and not in prison when the executor decision is made.
  • If conflicts within the family are a factor, it may be worthwhile appointing more than one person or even hiring a professional executor.
  • If a family member is chosen, they should have the time to carry out all the duties - this can be difficult if the executor does not live in the same town.
Appointing an executor will be a straightforward task for many people. But all families are different and there can be some family squabbles from those who feel as if the duty is rightfully theirs. If the most responsible person has been appointed, they should be able to fulfil the executor’s duties regardless of family politics.

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