Understandably, you might feel very proud to be asked to be the executor of a will. Carrying out the terms of someone’s will is an important responsibility, which means the person making the will – called a ‘testator’ if male and a ‘testatrix’ if female – must trust you. But don’t let the fact you feel flattered stop you from thinking clearly. Being an executor can be complicated and stressful at an emotional time, so here are four points worth considering as you decide whether to take on the role:
1. Saying ‘no’ might be best for everyone. You might be surprised to learn you can be made executor of a will without your knowledge. Normally, though, you will be asked if you are happy to take on the responsibility and you should give an honest reply. There could be many reasons, from intense work commitments through to your own declining health, why you would not be able to carry out the duties efficiently. Don’t agree to be an executor now, through a sense of polite obligation, if you actually feel you will let people down when the work needs to be done.
2. You might not be alone. There can be more than one executor of a will, so you won’t necessarily be left to manage everything on your own. Indeed, allowing yourself to be the sole executor of your spouse’s will, in particular, is not a good idea. How will you cope with the practical demands at a time of such emotional distress? Why not suggest your spouse names a legal professional as a second executor to help you? That person would then also be able to take charge of matters should you, sadly, die before your spouse. Alternatively, a will can name a ‘replacement’ executor, who steps in if the original executor becomes unable to deal with the estate.
3. You can still be a beneficiary. Executors can receive assets from the estate being distributed in the will (unlike the witnesses, and their spouses, to the signing of the will).
4. You can always ask for help! A solicitor or similarly qualified legal professional will be able to offer you everything from advice to practical assistance. At Deborah Wilkinson & Co., for example, we can help you deal with (‘administer’) the estate whilst ensuring you, as executor, retain control of the process.
If you are feeling at all unsure about whether you should agree to be the executor of a will, call us now. We’ll make your difficult decision a great deal easier.