Executors & Trustees
Executors and Trustees can be the same persons
A person or persons will need to be responsible for administering your estate upon your death. If you appoint someone to do this in your Will they are called “executors”.
You can appoint up to four executors. For parents, it would be normal to appoint at least two Alternative executors and trustees. If you have young children the possibility always exists that they will be needed to look after funds held in trust for children until the date specified in the Will or the child’s eighteenth birthday. It is expected the trustees will need various powers in relation to these funds, including power to advance money for maintenance or education of a beneficiary and power to invest.
A Trustee is a person who is usually your Executor and is a person who holds your property on behalf of others while your estate is being administered. Frequently, Trustees are appointed to hold your estate for the benefit of infant children while they are under the age of eighteen.
An executor is appointed in a will to administer the estate after the death. It is usual, and sensible; to seek the agreement of the executor before the appointment is made. After the death, the executors’ duties are defined in what is called ‘the executor’s oath.’ The duties are in general.
“To collect, get in, and administer according to law the estate of the deceased in accordance with the terms of the will.
Often, executors make the arrangements for the funeral, and when doing so, make themselves personally liable for the funeral account. If they do this they are entitled to be indemnified from the estate.
The extent to which an executor carries out his duties personally vary very widely. In some estates, there is very little to do beyond the closure and distribution of one or two building society accounts. Other estates can require substantially more work.
The executor may choose to ask a firm of solicitors to carry out some or most of the work, or, indeed, if a firm of solicitors is so instructed, to agree between them who will do which tasks. The executor can choose to delegate almost all the work to the solicitor, or to do the entire job him or herself, or to make any other arrangement in between.
At a minimum, however, the executor should expect to be involved in a certain amount of correspondence and signing of documents. It would be usual also for the executor to do much of the initial work of locating and identifying assets in the estate and also where there are gifts of particular items to arrange for the distribution of these items.
Whatever happens, an executor is entitled to have his proper expenses paid out of the estate, so the task should not normally be a financial burden.
Where people do go wrong from time to time, is in under estimating the need to comply precisely with several of the law’s requirements. For example, it is common, but quite wrong, for executors to distribute items from the estate to family members but not in accordance with the terms of the will. ‘He always said I could have the clock.’ may be true, but if it isn’t what was said in the will, or memorandum of wishes, or written specifically elsewhere and which is mentioned in the will, it is incorrect for the executor to give the clock.
Last, it is perhaps worth dispelling the myth of the “reading of the will”, where the executors, solicitor, and beneficiaries gather together amid great suspense, and simmering acrimony, to reveal the contents of the will. This happens very rarely, if at all.
A question frequently asked is whether an executor can also be a beneficiary. The answer is yes, provided the Will contains the appropriate wording. However executors, beneficiaries, or the spouses of executors, beneficiaries, MUST not witness Wills as gifts to witnesses or their spouses will not be allowed to stand, Save for exceptional cases.
Alternative executors and trustees will be needed to look after funds held in trust for children until the date specified in the Will or the child’s eighteenth birthday. It is expected the trustees will need various powers in relation to these funds, including power to advance money for maintenance or education of a beneficiary and power to invest