Plain English Guide to the Role of Your Executor

This Plain English Guide answers some of the more commonly asked questions about the role of Executor, but remember that your lawyer is available to answer any other questions or provide advice when you need it.

The Executor is the person (or persons) you appoint in your Will to administer your estate in the event of your death. The main functions of the Executor are:-

1. to apply for Probate (an order of the Supreme Court confirming your Executor’s appointment and that your Will is the most recent one);

2. to collect your assets;

3. to pay your debts and deal with outstanding matters such as income tax; and

4. to distribute the balance of the estate to your beneficiaries in accordance with the Will.

In performing those functions your Executor has the sole right (and duty) to make all manner of decisions. How should assets be sold? For what price and on what conditions? Should he sue for a debt or should he accept a compromise? Taxation matters need to be finalised and there might be any number of other issues.

The choice of your Executor is therefore very important. Some of the issues are:

  • Should you have one Executor or more than one? A single Executor makes decisions on his or her own and without interference. Multiple Executors must act in unison. All have to agree to any decisions. This can lead to problems but there are advantages in that there are checks and balances as compared to a situation of a single Executor.
  • If you appoint one or more of your children you need to be aware of family politics and potential tensions.
  • Should you appoint a professional Executor? Perhaps one of the Trustee Companies or a professional advisor? On the face of it has some advantages –  impartiality, professionalism etc. However, you need to be aware that there will be a cost of employing a professional and that very few professionals will have the personal interest or knowledge of your family and affairs that your family members have. You also need to consider that the advisor with whom you have a close working relationship may very well be retired by the time that you die and there can be no guarantee that your children will be able to enjoy a similar relationship. You should also bear in mind that a family or personal friend Executor can always seek professional assistance from the advisor of his or her choice.
  • Does your Will give your Executor significant discretions such as, for example, the right to allocate specific assets to individual beneficiaries, or the right to postpone the sale of assets and therefore completion of administration of the estate? If so, you need to consider whether there might be a conflict of interest between the Executor and other beneficiaries.

Depending on your individual circumstances numerous other considerations might bear upon your decision and we would be happy to discuss them further with you.

How Coleman Greig can help 

The Executor of your Will should preferably be an organised person who is impartial and reliable. You must be able to trust your Executor to carry out your final wishes, and to act in the best interests of your beneficiaries at all times.

Your lawyer at Coleman Greig will be able to assist your chosen Executor in all facets of the administration of your Estate. Appointing an experienced Estate Planning lawyer to assist your Executor in their duties will have significant advantages, including:

  • Your family and friends will receive efficient, reliable and prompt service with plain English explanations and advice as required;
  • Your lawyer will remain sensitive to the needs of both your family and the Executor of your estate, and can be trusted to act appropriately in any situation.
  • Your family and friends will receive the benefits of expert advice, as your lawyer works with professionals from other fields such as accountants, tax specialists and financial advisers; and
  • Coleman Greig has a wealth of experience in personal legal services.

Regardless of who you choose to appoint as the Executor of your estate, your lawyer at Coleman Greig will provide the relevant advice to help them through the difficult process, and will ensure that your wishes are looked after throughout every step of the process.

For more information on your role as the Executor of a Will, or how our Wills and Estates Planning lawyers can help you, please do not hesitate to contact our team.


Disclaimer: The information provided in the document is a general summary and is not intended to be nor should it be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other professional advice.


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