Often when people are asked to be the Executor of a Will they accept the role without truly knowing its parameters. While we don’t want to deter anyone from accepting the responsibility to carry out this very important role, you must understand what it entails. When a member of the family or a close friend asks you to be the Executor of their Will, you should seek some legal advice before saying yes.
Often the words ‘Executor and Trustee’ of the Will are used together but they have different meanings.
The Executor works closely with the lawyer for the estate of the deceased to execute the Will, to carry out the wishes of the deceased as set out in their Will. They also have to co-ordinate all aspects of carrying out those wishes which might include:
- organising and accepting responsibility for the funeral;
- the obtaining of Probate (which is a court document confirming the Executor can act on behalf of the deceased);
- the distribution of chattels;
- itemising all assets and liabilities of the estate;
- closing bank accounts; the transfer and distribution of all other property,
- and filing a tax return for the estate and the deceased.
While your lawyer helps with every step of the way, you as Executor are personally liable to ensure the Will is executed correctly.
The role of Trustee is to hold the deceased’s property on behalf of any beneficiary that is unable to have the property distributed to them. This may be because the beneficiary is under the age of 20 or perhaps the deceased has imposed conditions the beneficiary has to satisfy before they can receive the property. Under these circumstances the Trustee will hold the property on trust for the beneficiary until the beneficiary is in a position to have the property passed onto them.
If you are asked to be an Executor and a Trustee of a Will and you are unsure of the role and your liabilities and responsibilities please contact us to discuss.