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Getting organised with estate planning and making a Will is an important thing to do to ensure your wishes for your end of life and beyond are followed. But one thing that can often be overlooked is the importance of choosing the right executor of a Will.
The responsibility should not be taken lightly, so it’s important to appoint the right person for the task. You can read more about what’s involved in our article 12 common executor of a Will duties, here.
In this article, we explain 7 warning signs that you’re choosing the wrong executor, so that you can avoid these mistakes when appointing an executor of your Will.
1. Choosing more than one executor
Some people appoint two or more people as joint executors to their Will because they think it will make the process simpler. But often, it only complicates the process.
If you decide to appoint more than one executor, it is extremely important to consider their relationship. Multiple executors will have to work closely together and with any professionals engaged to assist in the administration of the estate. Take a moment to ask yourself: ‘Will all my executors be able to work together?’
Having multiple executors can sometimes create more work or complicate the administration process. And if an estate lawyer needs to step in to manage the process, this will incur additional professional service fees payable by your estate.
2. Appointing an executor who is disinterested
Disinterest can often stem from people being uncomfortable speaking about death, however it could also mean that they do not wish to be your executor. This should be resolved before you appoint them.
Before you appoint someone to act as executor of your Will, it’s a good idea to chat through your wishes to ensure they are comfortable with such an important responsibility.
3. Strained relationships with family and beneficiaries
If you are choosing someone because you feel obliged to do so (for example appointing your child) but they are estranged from you or your beneficiaries, executing your Will could become difficult for both them and your beneficiaries.
Choosing an estranged person as executor of a Will may cause issues with beneficiaries when the executor is trying to administer your estate. If you and your executor have been estranged during your lifetime, problems may also arise regarding their knowledge of your estate.
Similarly, it’s also wise not to appoint someone who has a strained relationship with your family and beneficiaries.
After a death, there are often many emotions felt by the deceased person’s executor, beneficiaries, family members and friends. An executor can be extremely important in communicating the process and likely outcomes for the beneficiaries. But if there is ‘bad blood’ between the executor and family members, communication is likely to be difficult. This can make administering an estate difficult and the process has higher potential to end in disagreements and drag out the process.
4. Choosing an executor who has a busy or full lifestyle
Administering an estate usually takes months and can be rather time-consuming. It is not unusual for the process to take a year to complete – if not longer, if disputes arise.
Each estate administration process will be different, depending on the individual circumstances. In some cases, the executor’s responsibilities may be more complicated and the process can take longer. Regardless, ‘simple’ estate administration generally involves time-consuming tasks like finding assets, closing accounts, selling property, distributing assets – just to name a few executor of a Will duties. Consequently, if your intended executor has a busy lifestyle, a high-stress job, or young family, they may not be the best person to choose.
5. Appointing an executor with poor management or organisation skills
As mentioned earlier, administering an estate can be a long and complex process; and being an executor comes with many responsibilities and obligations. In contrast, there will be times when things move quickly throughout the process, with various things happening at once. Staying organised is important to keep the estate administration process moving smoothly.
Disorganisation can lead to mistakes with things such as selling property and the responsibilities of maintaining the property before sale. An executor will want to avoid errors in distributing the estate to beneficiaries, as this can result in legal action.
There are also various legal and non-legal notifications that need to be made throughout the process, at very specific times. So you will need to ensure that the person will be capable of keeping track of what needs to be done and when.
6. An executor who is unfit or incapable to act
The court may not always grant your nominated executor the right to execute your Will. This will usually happen in instances where the person has been or is currently bankrupt, a criminal, a minor, or otherwise physically or mentally incapable.
The court also has the power to remove an executor after Probate has been granted if the administration of the estate is in jeopardy or there is a risk that the estate will not be administered properly, or not at all.
7. Choosing an executor who is not local
It may not be practical for an executor to be far away, geographically. While today’s technology helps, with the accessibility of emails and video chat, there are still benefits of having an executor who lives closer to your property and beneficiaries.
An executor generally needs to be present to sign documents and attend meetings with professionals like lawyers, accountants and conveyancers. It can also make collecting property and distributing gifts to beneficiaries easier if it can be done in person.
Final thoughts on choosing the right administrator of your Will
I hope this article provided some insights into choosing the executor, or executors, who are right for you and your estate.
Remember, an executor’s duties can be overwhelming, particularly for those without legal or business knowledge. So it’s important to choose a person, or people, who are capable of such a responsibility and willing to take on the task.
If your circumstances are complicated, consult a solicitor or estate administration expert.
This article is not legal advice. You should speak with a legal professional for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.
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