How to choose an appropriate executor of your will, and why it matters

woman looking at documents

Creating a will is one of the most important steps you can take to prepare for the future. While thinking about your death isn’t pleasant, putting your wishes in writing can help your family feel confident that your affairs are in order.

One aspect of will-writing that you may have overlooked, however, is choosing the executor of your will.

Keep reading to discover the role of the executor, some tips for choosing an appropriate person, and how working with a financial planner can help when making your estate plans.

The executor of a will is in charge of ensuring a person’s wishes are carried out

The executor of a will is responsible for actioning the instructions given by the will writer after their death.

This individual can be tasked with performing the following actions in the days, weeks, and months after the person passes away:

  • Securing and maintaining any property belonging to the deceased person
  • Collecting the assets belonging to the person, including money, and distributing it to those named in the will
  • Paying Inheritance Tax (IHT), and any other taxes or payments due on the estate
  • Arranging the person’s funeral in line with their wishes.


So, when you’re writing your will, it’s essential to begin thinking about who might be willing and able to distribute your estate on your behalf.

You can name up to four executors, or may choose to elect one executor with a “backup” individual listed too. Having more than one person named could provide you with peace of mind, as this can help to avoid issues if the first named executor is unable to, or does not wish to, accept the responsibility.

If nobody is able to act as executor, a government department called the Public Trustee can step in and handle your affairs.

3 essential tips for choosing the executor of your will

According to the Personal Finance Society (PFS), 3 in 4 people are likely to experience a will, inheritance, or probate dispute in their lifetime. While not all are related to executors, choosing an appropriate individual could reduce the chance of problems arising after your death.

Understandably, ensuring you have chosen a trustworthy, reliable individual as your executor is a vital part of estate planning.

Here are three practical tips to help you narrow down your list of potential executors.

1. Consider choosing someone your own age or younger

When picking an executor of your will, it may be prudent to choose someone your own age or, even more preferably, younger than you. This can help to improve the chances of the executor being able to carry out the role.

If you chose a parent or another trusted person who is older than you, they may pass away before you, or could be very elderly at the time of your death.

This may mean that your “backup” executor needs to assume the role. Or, if your executor is very old, they may find it challenging to sort all your affairs after you pass away.

2. Think about who you would trust the most to carry out your wishes

A weighty factor in choosing an executor is trust. Ultimately, you are choosing someone who you trust to act in accordance with what you want, when you are no longer there to oversee the plans in action.

This means it may be useful to select an executor who you have known a long time, and who you can trust to do exactly as you prescribe in your will. This could be your adult child, sibling, close friend, spouse, or even a trusted professional.

3. Discuss your choice with your family

Whoever you decide upon, discussing it with your family could be a constructive step.

Of course, the first person you may wish to talk through your choice with is the executor themselves. Not everybody may be comfortable to take on this role, so asking them if they are happy to be your executor is a helpful first move.

Once this is confirmed, telling your other close family members about your plans, including the executor you have chosen, may be useful. With everybody on the same page, you can rest assured that there will be no surprises down the line.

Going over your will with a financial planner can help ensure your affairs are in order

If you’re concerned about ticking all the relevant boxes when forming your estate plans, discussing your will with your financial planner could help.

We can help review your documents, discuss the responsibilities with your executor, and advise on any other inheritance matters, including Inheritance Tax.

To discuss anything you’ve read in this article, email us at [email protected], or call 01273 076 587.

Please note

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax planning or will writing.

About the author
Picture of Oliver McDonald
Oliver McDonald
Oliver is the managing director and independent financial adviser at Engage Wealth Management.
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