What To Know About Accepting The Role Of Executor

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Home > Blog > What To Know About Accepting The Role Of Executor

An executor plays an important role in the administration of an estate, and if you have been asked to become an executor you should feel flattered that you were considered to have the acumen, level-headedness and organisation skills required to carry out the role. Before you accept, however, there are some aspects of the title which you should consider. Here’s what to know before accepting the role of executor.

What does an executor do?

The role of an executor is to administer the estate, ensure the terms of the will are adhered to, protect the estate’s assets from deteriorating during probate and, at a minimum, maintain the value of the estate (if not increasing it). The role of the executor is fiduciary in nature, which means they must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and exercise integrity and honesty in their dealings.

What are the risks of being an executor?

Acting as an executor can open the individual up to some risks, including criticism and, to an extreme degree, legal action from the estate’s beneficiaries if they feel the role was not carried out properly. This could lead to the executor facing personal liability.  

If an executor is unsure of their responsibilities and obligations there is a chance they could breach their duty, even if inadvertently. Examples of a breach include not seeking relevant financial or legal advice when dealing with the assets of the estate or taking action without the agreement of another executor (if more than one exists).

If an estate contains complex or specialist assets which are foreign to the executor and they do not deal with them appropriately, this can be a risk to an executor, too. For example, if the deceased had business interests but did not have a succession plan in place, this complex issue could prove to be beyond the knowledge of the executor, similarly, an extensive collection of antiques which should be valued by an expert may be overlooked if the executor does not identify it correctly.

Does an executor receive remuneration?

Under some circumstances, the executor will be remunerated for their services. In cases where the executor has relevant professional experience, for example as a lawyer or accountant, the will would typically include a clause which allows for payment in line with their usual professional fees. Potential executors who find themselves in these situations should seek independent legal advice before accepting the role of executor to make sure they can charge for their time.

Sometimes, an executor may be the beneficiary of a gift in the will, which may be conditional on that person performing the role of executor successfully.

It is also possible for an executor to claim a commission. This payment can only be made with the express consent of the beneficiaries. If the executor does not have this consent they must apply to the Court to obtain orders in respect of any commission payable.

How do I turn down the role of executor?

If, after you have considered all of the above and assessed your capacity to carry out the role of executor, you decide it is not for you, you do have the option of declining the role of executor. A well-drafted will usually makes provision for a scenario where the nominated executor does not accept the role, and if that is the case another may be appointed. A court may also appoint an executor if it is appropriate to do so.