Although it can be tempting to ignore, the fact is that we must all prepare for our eventual mortality. Equally true is the fact that our old age is the time in our lives when we least want to deal with stress and complications. It’s not surprising therefore that so many people put off making a Will, only to find the process much harder later in life, or that they are burdening loved ones with avoidable legal complications.
We know from experience however that many people put off creating a Will not out of idleness, but because they are daunted by the admittedly complex legal process.
Fortunately, understanding the “legalese” of Will-making is simpler than it looks, and this article will guide you through two of the most relevant terms – “Executor” and “beneficiary” – as well as answering a common question connected with the terms – “Can someone be both?”
What Is an Executor?
An Executor is a person granted legal authority to administer and control the estate of someone who has died in their Will. The person who is creating a Will decides how many Executors to appoint.
Once appointed, the Executor is responsible for making sure that the deceased’s wishes are followed and for gathering and administering the deceased’s assets. They also need to make sure that the debts are paid off after which they can distribute the remainder to the beneficiaries stated in the Will.
If there are no Executors mentioned in a Will, then any of the listed beneficiaries in the Will can legally apply to become the Executor. If there is no Will, all assets pass under the intestacy rules. These are government rules that state who will benefit. For example, if a person left a spouse and children, they will both benefit from the estate if it is above the threshold.
How to Choose Executors
Technically, you can appoint anyone over the age of 18 to be your Executor. Given the importance of the role, it’s vital to choose a candidate who is unbiased, reliable, and trustworthy. It’s also necessary to choose someone who is willing and able to fill the role – choosing someone likely to die before you do or someone who actively doesn’t want the job can leave your estate with no valid executors.
Although you can appoint up to four, most people choose to have only two Executors. Two Executors are ideal because decisions are more easily made when fewer people are involved. The other two can be appointed as substitutes or a backup in case something unexpected happens and the chosen ones are unable to act.
What Is a Beneficiary?
A beneficiary is any person who receives anything in your Will, whether it be money, gifts, or property. In other words, they’re called beneficiaries because they directly benefit from being named in the Will.
Can Someone Be Both Executor and Beneficiary?
Yes. In fact it’s highly common for Executors to be beneficiaries in a Will. They tend to be the people closest to us in our lives, for example, pouses, partners, children or close friends.
However, choosing a legal professional as an Executor is also very common. This removes a major responsibility from your family during a stressful time, and a trusted lawyer can sometimes be more reliable for distributing assets fairly and impartially.
Lastly it’s critical to note that while a beneficiary can serve as an executor, they cannot serve as a witness. To be valid, a Will must be signed by both you and two impartial witnesses..
Don’t Put off Something so Important!
As we mentioned, we’ve learned from our ten years of experience in the field that holding off making a Will can ultimately produce serious problems that could be easily avoided with preparation.