Who should be the executors of your will?

Executors are people appointed under your will to handle your estate after you die. Choosing the right executor can be more important than you may think.

Executors are responsible for all decisions relating to your estate. If minor children are involved, this includes decisions as to spending money for their benefit.

If a person dies, leaving the whole estate to their spouse, the spouse is usually appointed as the executor, and this causes no problems. However, when an estate is left to two or more beneficiaries, the choice of executors becomes important.

It is vital to choose executors who are honest, understand the dynamics of your family, and will put the best interests of your beneficiaries first.

You should never appoint executors who may end up fighting with each other. Even children who get on well together during your lifetime may end up fighting over your money and assets. For this reason, siblings are usually a bad choice.

If you have two or three children, and wish to leave your estate to them, it is better to appoint outside executors.

We had a case where a mother left her estate to her son and daughter, then already aged in their 60s. For some reason, they managed to disagree on almost everything, and their disputes drag on for years, and ended up in court. After the case, there was virtually no money left in the estate to distribute.

In most cases, an ideal combination is a family member, such as an uncle, together with a professional, such as a solicitor or accountant. In this way, there will be an understanding of the family dynamics and needs, combined with the professional understanding of the taxation and legal issues involved. In such cases, the executors often leave it to the beneficiaries to agree amongst themselves as to what should happen to the estate assets. Then, the executors are required to step in only if there is a disagreement.

Also, having at least two tends to keep them honest.

For advice on wills and estates, contact Stephen Lynch at: slynch@somervillelegal.com.au


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