What is an executor of a will?

We give answers to the most common questions we get asked about appointing executors including: "What power does an executor of a will have?" and "What does an executor do?"

Share article

Who do you want to carry out your wishes after you’re dead? It’s a big (and sometimes emotional) job, so it’s a good idea to think carefully before choosing the right person.

Here are answers to the most common questions we get asked about appointing executors:

What does an executor do?

An executor is a person you nominate to carry out the wishes in your will when you die. The duties of an executor include:

  • Finding your assets, from physical objects to bank accounts, mortgages and pensions.
  • Finding and contacting everyone named in your will, and making sure your money, possessions and property go to the right people.
  • Wrapping up your affairs, including cancelling credit cards, notifying the bank and the council of your death, closing down any accounts and collecting any benefits.
  • Dealing with your digital assets, for example notifying social media sites of your death or turning your Facebook account into a memorial page.
  • Making any necessary payments, like mortgage payment and bills, and paying off any debts. The money for this will come out of your estate.

What power does an executor of a will have?

Executors have the power to access all your bank accounts and personal finance documents if, and only if, you have died. This power, however, only extends to carrying out duties as an executor - in order to distribute your estate as described in your will (see below).

Does the executor have the final say?

Executors are limited by a statutory duty of care (Trustee Act, 2000), which means that they have the legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries. In other words, your executors can’t just blow your whole estate on a 6-month cruise unless you specified those wishes in your will!

How should I choose an executor of a will?

It’s important to choose people you trust as executors, as they need to carry out the wishes in your will and find solutions to any problems that may arise.

It’s a good idea to think carefully before choosing your partner as your executor. They’ll be dealing with your death and might find the executor duties an unwelcome burden. Common choices are children, siblings or close friends. We always recommend appointing two executors (see next section). If one of your executors is a partner or someone very close to you, the other person could be someone more practical who can help them out with the admin.

How many executors do I need to appoint?

Technically you only need to appoint one executor. Legally however, lone executors have restricted powers to deal with the property in your estate and are unable to sell it without appointing an additional executor. For this reason, we recommend appointing at least two people. Whoever you choose, it’s best if they live relatively close to each other. If your executors are at other ends of the country (or not even in the same country), that makes it tricky for them to communicate and get things sorted.

Can an executor of a will also be a beneficiary?

Any of your beneficiaries can also act as your executor, as long as they’re over 18 years old.

Can my lawyer be an executor?

There are some situations where a professional executor might be more appropriate, like a solicitor or accountant. This usually applies if you have a complicated estate, or if you think your family and friends might not want to take on the executor responsibilities. Bear in mind professional executors will charge for this service, which will be paid for out of your estate. The way our wills are written, your chosen executors will be able to use your estate to pay for professional help if they deem it necessary.

Share article

Categories

Get started today

Take 15 minutes & join thousands of people making their will the smarter way.