There is often this misconception that a Will beneficiary can’t be an executor and vice versa. A Will beneficiary can indeed be an executor and vice versa, however, bear in mind that he or she cannot witness as they will not be entitled to receive what has been left to them under the terms of the Will.
First things first, let’s understand the difference between a beneficiary and an executor.
What is a beneficiary?
Beneficiaries are the people who you have decided will be entitled to your estate (assets and possessions) once you have passed away. Anyone can be a beneficiary including friends, relatives, organisations or charities.
Your estate can be divided up into small portions. For example, you could decide that your estate should be equally divided among your children or grandchildren. In addition to this, specific gifts or sums of money can be left to certain people.
What is an executor?
Executors are the people responsible for finalising your estate once you have passed away. In most cases, people appoint one or two executors, however, you can have up to four executors.
You can also choose substitute executors, who will act if your first choice is unable to for any reason.
Executors have a great deal of responsibility and tasks can involve applying to the Probate Registry, sorting out taxes owed and submitting tax forms to HMRC. Due to the work involved and the fact that an executor can be held personally liable if anything went wrong, you have to think carefully about who your executor should be. Make sure that you ask for their permission too!
Beneficiary acting as an executor
As previously covered, it is perfectly legal and normal for executors to act as beneficiaries. This is usually the case as people prefer to nominate someone who they can trust to be the executor, meaning that beneficiaries are often the best candidate.
Contrary to this, you may decide that you don’t want a beneficiary acting as an executor. For example, you may decide to leave your children everything in your estate, but they are too young to act an executor, so instead, you nominate your close friend who is extremely competent.
Can a beneficiary act as a witness?
I may be repeating myself as I highlighted this in the very first paragraph, however, it’s important to know that a beneficiary (and their spouse) should not witness your Will. This does not invalidate the Will but means that the witness is no longer entitled to their inheritance.
The Will needs to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses present, who also have to sign the Will in front of you. Make sure that whoever is being a witness, isn’t due to inherit any of your estate.
How to choose your executor
You may want to choose a very good friend or family member as an executor, as you trust them enough to be a beneficiary of your estate. Why wouldn’t you go down this route?
As previously stated, executors have a great deal of responsibility. Maybe it’s too much to ask of a family friend or relative?
It may be a better idea to choose a professional to act as the executor and take away the pressure for loved ones. They know the legal, tax and property issues inside out!
Professionals will charge for this service, so if you decide to go down this route, make sure you understand how they will go about charging you.
If you would like to talk to me about anything in this blog, please do not hesitate to get in touch by filling in the form below: