When you are writing your Will you need to appoint executors. Executors are responsible for ensuring everything written in your Will is carried out according to your wishes. They also have to deal with the other responsibilities that arise when a person dies including:

  • Registering the death

  • Organising funeral arrangements

  • Gaining valuations of property/ies and assets

  • Notifying appropriate authorities and returning important documents such as the passport and driving licence

  • Requesting statements of bank and building society accounts, share and investment certificates, etc

  • Paying and keeping records of outstanding bills, funeral expenses and other debts

  • Preparing accounts for submission to Customs & Revenue for Inheritance Tax evaluation

  • Applying for the Grant of Probate – see our Probate Guide for more information

  • Once Probate has been granted, distributing the estate assets as per the instructions in your Will

As you can see from the above list, there are many things to be done and the ongoing work for executors can take several months, or even years. It is therefore important that you choose people who will be able to work harmoniously with each other for a sustained period in what is probably going to be an emotional time. Something else to consider is selecting people who will accept professional financial advice, not be swayed by emotional pressure and be able to act both quickly or slowly as the occasion demands.

Who to choose as Executors?

It usual to appoint two or more people as your executors both to spread the workload and so each of them has someone to consult on potentially difficult or ambiguous issues. You can choose as many executors as you want, but it is likely the estate administration and dispersal will take longer and cost more if you appoint several people.

Ensure your chosen executors are honest and dependable and that they are comfortable dealing with financial matters. Try to select people who are likely to outlive you, otherwise you may need to update your Will if an executor dies. You should also ask the individuals you want to become your executors if they are happy to take on the role and, should they decline, have someone else in mind to replace them.

Possible candidates include:

  • Your spouse (if younger than you)

  • A child, younger brother or sister, niece or nephew

  • A close friend or other relative

  • You can choose a professional such as your solicitor, accountant or bank – note that use of all of these options will incur a charge

Professional Executors

The benefit of using a professional firm or person to be an executor is that they will be familiar with the Will dispersal and Probate process and have expert knowledge. Another benefit is that some professionals can apply for some of the required Probate documents via post, rather than in person. If you chose non-professional executors it’s possible they will engage professional services anyway. Any fees incurred by the executors will be offset against the estate’s assets and deducted from the total amount before dispersal to beneficiaries.

Another individual that can be an executor of a Will is the Public Trustee. This is government employee who can act as an executor in the following instances:

  • When appointed in a Will

  • When someone dies intestate, the Public Trustee will act as an Administrator

  • As a trustee in particular circumstances – see Trust and Trustees for more details

If one of your named executors dies, the remaining executor(s) can act on their own. If there are no surviving executors, legal expertise will need to be sought.

What if I need to change a named executor?

You may want to change an executor in your Will for a variety of reasons including:

  • The executor moves abroad

  • A named executor dies

  • A change of relationship with a named executor

  • The executor no longer wishes, or is unable, to carry out the responsibility

You can do this by either adding a codicil to your existing Will or writing a new Will. See our Changing a Will page for more information.