There has been a concerted campaign in recent years to encourage more of us to write a will. A well written will ensures that our wishes are correctly interpreted after our death and saves bereaved relatives and friends an enormous amount of heartache and stress – the will is only one side of the story though. When you write a will you must appoint an executor to manage the distribution of your estate. This can be your solicitor, bank, or a family member or close friend. An executor is usually chosen because they are trustworthy and responsible but many of us are not really equipping our executors for the role, increasing the potential for disputes and problems.
How many of us are guilty of drafting a will with our solicitor then letting our executors know that they are named in the document without explaining any of the content in detail? The role of the executor carries serious legal responsibilities and unlimited personal liability, so it seems neither fair nor wise to give them only part of the picture.
There is tremendous reservation about discussing personal finances and assets, and how we might want them distributed after our death. If you don’t offer this information to your executor they are unlikely to ask for it. This means that the first time they can access crucial personal files is after your death, when you are no longer around to explain the intricacies. Many of us now hold savings, current accounts, premium bonds and shares online, as well as other important documents but because of understandable concerns about security we don’t provide our executors with access to passwords. After your death your executor may have no idea where to find your passwords. They may not even be aware that these documents and accounts exist if there are no paper files. In these circumstances your beneficiaries could lose out, or your executor might be vulnerable to claims after the estate has been distributed.
It is really helpful to talk to your executor before your death and provide them with a clear outline of all your assets and debts. A spread sheet can be a good way of doing this. You don’t have to put in every detail but approximate figures can be tremendously helpful, giving them an indication of the total value of the estate and what, if any, Inheritance Tax is payable. You should have a list of passwords and account numbers available for them after your death and ideally you should have an open discussion with your executor about your wishes and your will when you draft it. The more information that you provide your executor with the less likely they are to encounter problems. This will help ensure that your estate is distributed properly to beneficiaries without out unnecessary delays.
About the author
Guy has worked in the insurance profession for over thirty years, initially in the London Insurance market as a broker and subsequently as a Lloyd’s Members’ Agent. He set up private client insurance brokers Castleacre in 2005. Castleacre is the first company in the UK to offer indemnity insurance to lay executors – in direct response to clients who had become executors but could not find suitable cover on the market. If you have would like to know more about executor liability insurance or to contact Guy click here. If you wish to view the Executors Insurance blog click here.