When preparing a will many people rightly spend a lot of time thinking about who they want to benefit financially on their death. But do they also consider the implications or effect their wishes might have on their choice of executor?
A recent article about George Michael's will referenced the fact his sister was named sole executor and that the terms of his will may cause her some stress to deal with. When an individual is named as sole executor the pressure on them can be significant, particularly if there are challenges brought against the will or the estate. It can be a demanding job for lay executors to not only find their feet in the role (not least with tax reporting deadlines to consider) but also to cope with the demands of those named in the will, as well as those excluded.
Those faced with the role of sole executor (or even multiple lay executors) may find it helpful to instruct a solicitor to assist them with the administration process. It does not need to be for the whole process and often solicitors are instructed up to the stage the Grant of Probate is extracted or even to advise the executors when claims arise. Executors have the important role of protecting and maximising the assets in an estate whilst also, as may be appropriate, defending certain types of claims. However, in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, an executor could face costs risks if they do not adopt an appropriate neutral stance (whilst still complying with their duties in such claims under the CPR). Taking advice in the face of claims may therefore be a sensible step even if it is just for guidance. Having a solicitor acting may also help to make some space between the executor and the claimants - particularly when they may all be family members.
Testators should give serious thought as to who they want but also trust to act as their executor(s) to carry out their wishes post death. In doing so, they should also take time to consider if their trusted friend/family member is going to be able to cope with the potential demands of the role.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.