If you already have a Will, it’s worth reviewing it after any life changing events, such as the birth of a child, a marriage or divorce, a death or anything else that might change your financial circumstances.
What is the Executor of a Will?
When a person dies, the person dealing with their estate (i.e. the deceased’s money, property and possessions) is called an executor. It’s important to name someone you trust as the executor of your Will. If no executor is named, or they are not willing to act, an administrator will be selected. Most people typically choose one or two executors, but up to four executors can act at once. Being an executor is a massive responsibility, so it’s often better to share this job amongst more than one person.
The executor is responsible for various things. They must find all financial documentation belonging to the person who has passed, send a copy of the death certificate to the organisation that holds the money for that person, and ask for confirmation of how much money is held. They must also work out the amount of inheritance tax due and arrange for it to be paid. Amongst other administrative tasks, the executor will eventually share out the estate as set out in the will.
Many executors act without the support of a solicitor, but it’s always wise to seek legal advice if things become complicated. For instance, if the terms of the will are unclear, the deceased owned a business, or beneficiaries are likely to dispute the will.
What is a Beneficiary of a Will?
A beneficiary is a person who will inherit something, such as money or property, from a person who has died. This is usually decided by the Will of the deceased, or if no Will is in place then it will be decided under the Intestacy Rules. The beneficiaries of a Will will be notified by the executor, but there are no set rules on when that should happen. Anyone can be named as a beneficiary, including children, your spouse, your relative and friends, or even charities.
Beneficiaries fall into different categories. A specific beneficiary is someone who has been left specific items, like a piece of jewellery. A general beneficiary is one who has been left a sum of money or something else that can’t be specifically identified. An example of this would be if a beneficiary is left £10,000, which can be paid from any of the assets in the estate. A demonstrative beneficiary, on the other hand, is someone who has been left a gift from a certain source, such as £10,000 specifically from a savings account or pension fund. A residuary beneficiary is someone who has been left a percentage of the final estate after any debts have been paid.
Can an Executor Be a Beneficiary?
It is quite common (and perfectly legal) for the person named as executor of a Will to also be a beneficiary. In fact, it’s not unusual for the executor to be the main beneficiary. It’s also more than acceptable to not name your executor as a beneficiary. For instance, you might want your children to inherit your entire estate, but name a sibling or close friend to act as executor.
What you cannot do, is name the witness of your Will as a beneficiary. While your Will won’t be invalidated, it would mean that the witness can no longer receive the inheritance you wish to leave them. It’s important to sign your will in front of two completely independent witnesses, who will also need to sign it.
Planning ahead by drawing up a Will can be a difficult subject to broach, but it’s a crucial step to take to ensure your loved ones are provided for and your estate is divided up as you wish. If you were to pass away without a Will, your estate will be classed as “intestate” and you won’t have a say in where it goes. This means that even if you don’t consider yourself to have much by way of finances and assets, it’s still important to be prepared. We have a team of experienced Will solicitors, based in Essex, who can help you make this process as straightforward as possible. Please get in touch at your earliest convenience if you would like to begin creating a Will.