Every Will must have in it the appointment of an Executor and Trustee. Often these are the same people and can be more than one. They must be able to understand the contents and intentions of the Will so fully that they can administer the Estate.

This is traditionally a task given to a lawyer. A clearly drafted Will makes it perfectly possible for a friend or close relative to do this job. They may, if they wish, employ the services of a lawyer or accountant if there is a lot to do.

Clarity and simplicity are therefore important. Information relevant to the Will should be stored with it (i.e. an Asset Sheet and personal letters containing your instructions to your Executors).

Executors

The first thing an Executor must do is to take the Will to the Probate Office, together with a death certificate and show them the documents. If all is well with the Will (properly attested, unmarked and clear) a certificate known as a grant of Probate is given to the Executors. This important piece of paper gives government approval for the Executor to carry out his or her task immediately.

The Executor will have to approach banks and other financial organisations, employers, etc. in order to call in any money owing to the Estate. A bank account is opened in the name of the Trustees and money paid into it as it arrives. Outstanding bills and debts (credit cards, rent and rates, telephone, gas, electricity bills etc.) must be paid from this account.

When all the money owing to the estate has been paid into the Trustees account and all outstanding debts paid (including the Executors out-of-pocket expenses) the Executor must go back to the Probate office and show them what has been done.

If the Probate Office is satisfied with these accounts it will give the Executor authority to distribute the legacies, bequests and residuary gifts to the beneficiaries. Each of these beneficiaries (people receiving gifts from the Estate) and, if there is tax payable, the Inland Revenue, will be required to sign a receipt after which the account should be empty and then closed.

In this definition we have referred to the Trustees and Executors as one person. As the two roles run parallel it is normal practice to make them the same person.

Trustees

The Trustee is someone who will look after the things that will become the property of other people........ such as beneficiaries who are under 18 (the Will may refer to members of the family who may not have the gifts until they are 18 or 25 or any age in between).

If the testator (the person making the Will) does not want the money and any bequests (i.e. jewellery, or valuable collections) to be inherited until a specified age the Trustees must look after the gifts and keep them safely (and properly invested in the case of money) until the Minor reaches that age. Perhaps the Testator has made it quite straightforward, if not this might be a complicated task requiring the help of a professional to set up a Trust.

It is possible that the Executor might not be able to do this job for a number of reasons. He or she may relinquish the task at the outset and an alternative must then be found, either already appointed by the testator (something that we encourage) or the next of kin or chief beneficiary.
A family member or friend who is Executor has control of what is happening and if there are complications which require the in-put of a solicitor or accountant their contribution is only temporary and of no real significance in the final denouement.

Professional help may be sought and paid for from the estate if necessary, control regarding timing and speed of delivery remains with the appointed Executor who should be in charge throughout. They thus retain the right to hire and fire and remove the Will from someone who turns out to be incompetent, who procrastinates or who overcharges.inheritancetaxtax01.jpg

It is a powerful appointment and one made in absolute Trust and confidence that the appointee is the right person to carry out the task and should be taken as a great compliment.

In summary, an Executor is the person responsible for the administration work connected with a Will, a Trustee looks after something that will become the property of somebody else.