When you finally get your Will sorted, you’ll probably feel very pleased with yourself for a job well done.
And you should be proud. A lot of people put it off forever, going through their whole life without a Will.
One of the big decisions to be made in your Will, is who your executors are going to be. These are the people who are responsible for sorting your estate out. They provide valuations of your assets to the Revenue, and apply to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Probate, assuming that one is needed.
Your executors need to have a methodical approach to paperwork, and they need to be the sort of people to do things properly. Ultimately, as well as dealing with the paperwork, they are the people who must distribute your estate correctly, between the beneficiaries you have selected to receive your estate.
It’s a significant job.
Many legal advisers will ask you who you want to appoint as executors, in addition to them. Did you see what I did there? If you’re asked who should act as your executors with the advisers, you’ll probably assume that you need a professional to be your executor, together with your family.
The fact is, many families are able to deal with the Probate process themselves.
If you appoint the company who prepares your Will to be your executors as well, then when you die, they are pretty much guaranteed the job of obtaining the Grant and administering your estate. This is because you’ll not be here anymore, and they will claim to be honouring your wishes. After all, your appointment of them in your Will is clear for all to see.
Why would a company be so keen to act as your executors? To put it bluntly, the work of preparing Wills is not nearly as profitable as Probate work can be. I generally recommend that most people with simple affairs, appoint their own family to be executors, unless there’s a reason to appoint a professional to be your executor.
Some people who anticipate difficulties after they die, because of challenging family dynamics, want a company involved, to create a bit of neutrality. Some people with beneficiaries all overseas, want a company to take charge. Some people who know that there’s a trust for say a disabled beneficiary, want to have professional involvement going forward.
If you do not have a good reason to appoint a professional to be your executor, please keep an eye on who is appointed as your executor in your Will.
By appointing your family, you are certainly not forcing them to do the job if they don’t feel able to carry out the requirements. On the contrary, by appointing your family, you are giving them the power to make a choice, based on their needs at the time.
By appointing your family as your executors, they can demand a fixed fee for the work involved. They can ask a company who is local to them at the time, to assist. They can attempt the forms themselves if they feel able (and it’s worth noting that many people do feel able). I have never heard anyone say the Probate Registry was unhelpful when they needed to complete forms. Of course they can’t give advice, but they are in my experience, very geared up to assist the public as much as possible.
For a young family, you may appoint each other, then as a back up plan, maybe a combination of siblings. Once your children are adult, you can update your Will so that you’re appointing each other, then the back up is your adult children.
If you find yourself appointing someone who is not then receiving a benefit in your Will, but you’re appointing them because they’re the most organised person you know, you may consider giving a sum of money which is conditional on taking on the job.
Whatever you do, keep this aspect of your Will under review. It’s important. And remember that if a professional is appointed, they won’t be doing the work for free. How much would you want to give to your adviser, before giving to your family?
By appointing your family, they can choose what they feel is reasonable to spend with an adviser, once they know what work is involved.
If you want to chat through any ideas with Jane Cassell of JC Independent Wills & Probate Ltd, drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give her a call on 01727 840 240.
EDITOR: My thanks to Jane for writing this article.