Deciding to be an executor

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What is an executor?

Anyone who makes a will must name an executor. An executor
is legally responsible for carrying out the instructions in the
person’s will and handling their estate (their money, property
and possessions).

Who can be an executor?

You can act as an executor even if you’re going to inherit
something from the will. In fact, an executor is often a spouse,
child or other family member. The person making the will can
appoint up to four executors, so the responsibility is shared,
but all decisions must then be made jointly. A family member
and a professional (such as a solicitor) might act as executors
together. Often, at least two executors are appointed, just in
case one dies or is otherwise unable to carry out their duties.

What do executors do?

• They make sure all property owned by the person who has
died is secured as soon as possible after the death.
• They collect all assets and money due to the estate of the
person who has died (including property).
• They pay any outstanding taxes and debts (out of the estate).
• They distribute the estate to the people who are entitled to it
under the terms of the will.
• If the will contains specific instruction to do so, they will also
arrange the funeral.
Before you agree to be an executor
Being an executor isn’t easy. It can take up a lot of your time
and it might be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re
grieving – so think carefully before you agree to take on the

Can I change my mind?
Once you’ve accepted the role of executor, you have several
options if you later change your mind:
• If possible, talk about your decision with the person who
appointed you so they can change the name of the executor
in their will.
• If the person has died and you haven’t yet started to deal
with their estate, speak to the Principal Probate Registry
(page 20) or to a legal professional about your options. You
may need to complete a Form of Renunciation.
• If you’ve already started to deal with the estate, you cannot
step down unless you have a good reason, such as ill health
or a family emergency.

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