How many Executors should I have?

Published: 29th April 2010
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If you are writing a Will then you will need to give careful consideration to your choice of Executor.

An Executor is the person or persons who will be responsible for sorting out your estate on death. Our London Will Writing Consultants often are asked for their opinion on how many Executors someone should realistically appoint. It is of course, ultimately the choice of the person for whom the Will is to be written (know as the Testator), but below we offer our thoughts based on our past experience, which we hope will help you decide.

Firstly, an individual may appoint in their Will any number of Executors, however only a maximum of four at any time may take out the grant of probate and act in relation to any one part of the estate (s114(1) Supreme Court Act 1981 (SCA 1981)), so there is little point in ever naming more than four Executors.

We consider Sole Executor and Multiple Executors separately:

Sole Executor

It is debatable as to whether it is advisable to have sole Executor appointed under a Will, and it will depend on the individual case. The general consensus is this would only be sensible where a surviving spouse/civil partner takes all the residuary estate outright and there are no Trusts in the Will. Even then, it will be advisable to make provision for 'Reserve Executors' in case the spouse/civil partner dies before the Testator.

Multiple Executors

In our home visits across the London area we would normally advise that two Executors are appointed (if they are to be Trustees as well). For instance, if children are involved the Testators will probably want any legacies held in ongoing Trusts until the children reach adulthood. Trusts require ongoing maintenance so it is helpful to share burden and investment responsibility.

In fact it is fair to say that two Executors (who are the Trustees as well) are preferable for most estates, and it some instances it is almost a necessity, particularly if one of the legacies is the passing of property on second death. This is because trust law ordinarily dictates that two trustees are needed to give valid receipt on a transfer of land (s27(1) Law of Property Act 1925 (LPA 1925)). That said, the Court will intervene in the case of a sole Executor if the beneficiaries are minors to find a solution.

Most of our Will clients will nominate their partners in their Mirror Will as the one of their Executors. This in a lot of ways makes sense as not only do they probably know the Testator intimately they will probably have a good understanding of the assets and policies. In this instance if the Executor is unfamiliar with finances then they might want to consider a friend or family member that is, to act with them. Alternatively, they might want to employ a professional such as a Trust Corporation who are legally treated as two Executors.

Sometimes, however, clients want to appoint more than two Executors if, for example, they have three or four adult children and want them all to have the opportunity to act.

It is also possible to have different Executors to act in relation to different parts of an estate. Where this option has been most helpful is for our self employed Will customers who may want a different Executor to look after their business interests, such as their business partner, when they die.

Richard Stokes

Niche Wills in London | London Will Writers

Members of The Society of Will Writers

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