Choosing the executor of your will

The person who sorts out your property when you die and carries out the instructions in your will is called your executor. You can choose whoever you like to do this job, but there are factors to consider to help you make the right choice.

What does an executor do?

Your executor takes on the job of carrying out the instructions you leave in your will when you die.

It can be a complicated job even if your instructions and your property are quite simple – it’s not unusual for the process to take several months.

The job of an executor is sometimes difficult. For example, they might have to:

  • decide when to sell your property so the people who inherit the proceeds get the most money
  • make sure the right amount of Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax gets paid.

Who can be an executor of a will?

Anyone aged 18 or above can be an executor of your will. There’s no rule against people named in your will as beneficiaries being your executors. In fact, this is very common.

Many people choose their spouse or civil partner, or their children, to be an executor.

Up to four executors can act at a time, but they all have to act jointly. So it might not be practical to appoint that many people.

It’s a good idea, though, to choose two executors in case one of them dies before you do. 

Many people choose a professional executor such as a solicitor to act for them but charges can be quite steep.  It is helpful to have someone involved with specialist knowledge but your executors can always appoint professionals at the time to help them if they need it - which may be more cost effective. 

You can appoint substitute executors to cover the situation if your first choice dies before you.

What makes a good executor?

Above all, you must choose somebody you trust.

It’s going to be up to them to follow the instructions in your will and to find fair solutions to any disagreements.

It’s helpful if your executor is good at paperwork and managing legal issues but not essential.  They can appoint professionals to help them at the time if they need to. 

Family members as executors

If there’s someone in your family who you think will handle the job well, it can be a good idea to have them as an executor.

For example, it’s common to name one of your children, a niece or nephew or an adult grandchild.

Make sure you ask if they’re happy to do the job before you write your will though – if they say no, you’ll have to get your will changed.

Think carefully before choosing your husband, wife or partner as your only executor.

They’ll be dealing with your death. By naming somebody else to be an executor with your husband, wife or partner, you can at least take the burden of the paperwork off their shoulders.

Solicitors, banks and accountants as executors

Many people do choose a solicitor or even their bank as one of the executors. The plus side to this is that they’re experienced and know their way around legal, tax and property issues.

However it is much more expensive to have professional executors act for you. There are two ways a professional executor might charge: 

  • by sending a bill for their time when your things have all been sorted out
  • by taking a share of the total value of your estate – this will be written into your will.

Make sure you understand how your solicitor, bank or accountant will charge for being an executor and how much each option will cost before you commit.

The alternative is to appoint family members or friends as executors who won't charge for their time but can appoint professionals at the time to help if they need it. 

If you don’t have anyone who can be an executor

As a last resort, there’s a government official called the Public Trustee who will be your executor if there’s really nobody else who can do it.

The most common situation where the Public Trustee will step in is if your will leaves everything to one person and that person can’t act as executor himself or herself. For example, a child or an adult whose disability means they’re incapable of managing financial affairs.

When you’ve chosen your executor

Make sure you confirm your executor’s full name and address in your will, so they can be found.

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
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Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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