An Executor is the person who is responsible for administering the Will of the Testator (who for the purposes of this article I will call the Will maker). The main responsibilities of an Executor are:
- To arrange for the burial of the Will maker;
- Make inquiries to ascertain what is comprised in the Estate;
- Close bank accounts and investments, and sell any real estate;
- Pay funeral expenses and any other expenses or debts; Distribute the Estate;
- Keep Accounts;
- Report to the Beneficiaries.
While a law firm will assist in the preparation of documents, closing bank accounts and investments, and the sale of property it is the Executor who is legally responsible for ensuring that the above tasks are completed and the Will maker’s wishes are carried out.
The role of Executor is usually relatively straightforward but it can also be an onerous one. And this is especially true when the Will is contentious. For example, a Will may either omit a family member entirely or treat family members unequally. Frequently in such circumstances Wills are challenged through the Courts.
It is usual for a person to be the Executor for their spouse or partner. This is usually straightforward unless the couple have children from previous relationships. It can also be quite normal for a person to ask a trusted friend to be an Executor. In this case you as Executor are effectively a neutral party with no vested interest.
If you are asked to be an Executor by a friend, you should consider the request very carefully. If you know or suspect that there could be disputes over an estate then I suggest you decline the request. If you decide to accept the position in the knowledge that difficulties could arise in the future you should try and gain a thorough understanding of the Family’s background and the motivation behind the Will maker’s wishes. You should also seek to understand the family dynamics.
In situations where there is a conflict between members of the family over an Estate the job of being an Executor can be a very thankless one. Remember too that it is usually unpaid.
If however, as in the majority of cases, the Will maker treats family equally then the role of the Executor need not be an overly onerous one. However, I suggest that if you are asked to be an Executor, you should discuss the request with a lawyer before agreeing.
Please note that this article is intended for general guidance only. Each person’s circumstances will be different. You should consult a lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances.