Wills: The Role of an Executor & Trustees


Writing or updating your Will can be a complex matter, especially as there are certain roles and responsibilities that you will need to give to specific people. Not only do you need to name the people you wish to inherit from you, known as “beneficiaries”, but you will also need to name an Executor, Trustees, as well as a Guardian if you have children under the age of 18. In this article, we explain these different roles to help you understand what’s involved before you give people certain responsibilities:

Executor – what do they do?

This is the person you would name in your Will to look after your affairs once you have passed away. The role of an Executor is to deal with the estate administration; they will have specific legal responsibilities for winding up your estate including reporting and paying off any debts and Inheritance Tax (IHT). Until the probate process is complete, all outstanding debts are paid, and your estate has been passed to the named beneficiaries in your Will, the Executor will be held responsible.

You can have more than one Executor, especially if you want your children to equally manage your affairs. However, in some situations, you could consider appointing a professional Executor, who can step in and look after the more complex side of estate management. This can be a good option if you are worried about any potential family disputes, or in case your chosen Executor decides they cannot carry out this role, whether due to ill health or due to the legal and financial responsibilities involved.

Always choose someone you trust, whether this is a family member or a friend – and you must ask them whether they are happy to be an Executor. There is a lot of time-consuming admin involved, so ideally, ask someone who has a good eye for detail and a good head for figures.

Trustees – why do I need these?

This is a way to protect your estate if you want someone to inherit from you in the future at an agreed time, i.e. when a child reaches 18 years of age. You would need to choose at least two Trustees (legal requirement) and, again, you need to choose people you fully trust to manage your estate and who will act in your best interests. Like the role of the Executor, they will be required to submit records to HMRC, so it is a good idea to choose Trustees who are competent from a financial perspective. Remember – these people will be responsible for managing your estate should you pass away, and always ask whether they are happy to carry out this role before officially naming them in your Will.

Will-based Trusts will also require you to name Trustees – most of the time, these will be the same people as the Executors, unless they are under 18 years of age. It is worth considering a Will-based Trust due to the various tax benefits and added protection it may give you and your family in the future.

Guardian – do you have children?

If you have children then you must nominate a Guardian to legally care for your children, should you and your spouse/partner pass away before they reach the age of 18. Without a legal Guardian named on your Will, your children’s care could end up being managed by social services. We suggest choosing a responsible, trusted person who shares similar values, morals and beliefs as you and your partner. After all, should the worst happen, you will want your children to be brought up as you had intended. It is a good idea to check their financial situation and make provision in your Will for the costs of raising your children should you pass away. This is often forgotten when people appoint a Guardian. Again, always make sure they are happy to carry out this role for you. Usually, you would only appoint one Guardian, as things can get very complicated if you choose, for example, a married couple and they break up in the future, etc.

Always seek professional financial advice before updating your Will, as it is well worth checking all options available to you – for example, Trusts – to help you protect your estate from either tax liabilities or disinheritance issues, i.e. the wrong people inheriting from your estate.

If you need to update or write a new Will, and you’re unsure of the implications, please get in touch to speak to one of our financial planners, who will be able to advise.