At HERITANCE WILLS, it has always been our best practice to advise our clients that if they have someone in mind to appoint as executor in their will, they should first enquire with that someone and get their prior consent. This is especially important if your candidate of choice is not an immediate family member. You may have this candidate in mind because of his or her abilities to conduct their own legal affairs. Imagine his or her surprise to receive a call or email from your lawyer telling them that you’ve named them as executor in your will. If they should turn down the appointment at this juncture, there will be added legal cost to your estate.
So what if you were the one appointed as executor in someone’s will?
First and foremost, don’t panic! You are free to choose whether you want to accept the role. Of course if you had been asked by the maker of the will prior to this and had already accepted then, it would the honorable thing to act. After all, they are trusting you to fulfill their last wishes as made out in their will.
Once you agree to continue, an executor’s duties are not without its challenges. This is especially the case for complex wills, large estates and beneficiaries who don’t see eye to eye. So do give it some consideration and discuss with your spouse to see if you are able to accept the appointment.
To decide, you should take into account the following valid and practical considerations:
- Your relationship with the deceased;
- Your knowledge of the deceased’s affairs, local and abroad and your ability to allocate time to deal with a foreign legal system;
- Your ability to appreciate the legal documents that you are signing towards the application for probate for the estate;
- Your commitment to carry out burdensome provisions in the will for e.g. a continuing trust to execute for minor or disabled beneficiaries.
From our experience as professional executors, there are a myriad of different tasks required of an executor, hence the above is not conclusive. Once you have accepted the appointment, while it is permissible to resign as an executor, the process will cost the estate.
If you decide to accept the appointment, your first responsibility is to ensure that a lawyer is appointed to advise you on your duties. For the lawyer to start the estate’s execution process, the first task is to locate the will. If you have not been the deceased’s confidante as to where the will is kept, this could pose a problem. For this reason, our WILLSAFE™ storage services is the best solution, provided it’s not too late.
Assuming the will is available and in order, then the execution of the estate can then begin.
- First, prepare a list of the beneficiaries named in the will and notify them;
- Second, prepare a list of the assets and liabilities of the estate. If the estate’s debts exceed its assets, the estate is deemed insolvent and you should ensure your estate lawyer assist you to tackle this ominous situation;
- Third, if it is a high value estate, then collecting and preserving the estate’s assets is foremost. Engaging other professionals like accounting and tax professionals is mandatory. Filing of tax returns for the estate is one of the important duties.
- Fourth, after the various pecuniary bequests are paid, an executor may sometimes find themselves continuing to act as trustee of any trusts created under the will.
- Fifth, a last but nonetheless important fact to consider is that any failure by an executor to comply with their duties can leave them personally liable to aggrieved beneficiaries. So advice to be heeded is either be very diligent about your duties or opt for a professional to take your place.
We at HERITANCE WILLS are equipped with the legal expertise to function as your
professional executor or to assist you to be an executor.
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