We will keep monitoring these developments and issue further updates and more detailed guidance as and when this becomes available. However, if you have any queries in the meantime, please speak with your usual contact at Wansbroughs.
To Appoint or Not to Appoint (a Professional Executor): That is THE Question
There has recently been much media coverage of the exorbitant fees solicitors charge for acting as executors of Wills and the treatment friends and relatives have received by them acting as such. For example, one recent article published in the national press dealt with a case where the fees charged by the solicitors instructed as executors in relation to an estate totalled over 38% of the estate’s total value.
In addition, earlier this month Jessica Dobson, one of our solicitors, was interviewed on BBC Wiltshire Radio for her professional input in relation to this very topic.
So, what is the reality? Are the stories printed in the press an accurate representation of what to expect if you appoint a professional as your executor? Or is it just good sense to leave your worldly possessions under the control of a professional after you die?
The executors are the people appointed to deal with an individual’s estate after their death. This task involves obtaining the Grant of Representation (if required), collecting in the deceased individual’s assets, paying any debts, inheritance tax and funeral expenses, and distributing the individual’s estate in accordance with the terms of their last Will.
The key point to remember is that an individual is free to appoint any individual to act as their executor, provided that person is over the age of 18. This may be a family member, friend or neighbour, and there is certainly no obligation upon an individual to appoint a professional as their executor. In all cases, we would recommend that an individual appoints an executor whom they know well and trust and, in most cases, individuals do choose to appoint a family member or a close friend. Crucially, executors can only be appointed via an individual’s Will.
In some circumstances, an individual may feel it appropriate to appoint a professional executor, such as a solicitor, financial adviser or bank, to act as their executor either alone or alongside lay executors. For example, the nomination of a professional executor may be appropriate where the estate is complex because of its worth, its assets or because of the family arrangements of those close to the deceased.
Of course, choosing a professional executor is likely to mean that fees are incurred, and all professional executors will be entitled to charge for the work done.
However, in the case of solicitors, the Law Society has recently issued guidance to all solicitors indicating that clients who are considering an appointment of a professional executor must be given information sufficient to allow them to make an informed decision about the appointment of a professional executor and, in particular, the costs likely to be associated with such an appointment. All clients must be made aware of their choice to appoint a professional or a lay person, and that if they choose the latter, professional assistance can still be sought for the estate administration.
The guidance states that where a client is considering making a professional appointment of the solicitor or their firm, they should be given an indication of the likely current costs of them acting as an executor or carrying out the administration of the estate, and told the basis on which that quote has been calculated and that the fees may change.
In addition, if the client does wish to proceed with the appointment of a professional executor, the solicitor taking that instruction must be satisfied that the client understands their choice and that to make such an appointment would not be contrary to their best interests at the time of drafting.
This guidance is supported by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and its Code of Conduct, which regulates all solicitors in their day to day practice.
Overall, the appointment of the executors of an estate is an important consideration for all individuals making or amending a Will, but as ever the most appropriate appointment will depend upon your wishes, your assets and your personal circumstances.
If you would like to discuss the appointment of executors further, or if you are considering making any changes to your Will, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or your usual contact at Wansbroughs.