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Does An Executor Get Paid?

Being the executor of a will is a role that takes a lot of time and effort. It can be complicated and stressful. So many people assume that an executor will be paid for their time at the very least. However, this is not generally the case, and executors are not automatically entitled to receive any compensation at all.

When can executors be paid?

If the executor is a family member or friend, or indeed any other person who does not execute wills for a living, they will not be entitled to be paid for being executor. It could be, however, that they are also beneficiaries in the will, in which case they will of course receive their inheritance, although this may not be in recompense for being an executor, and may have happened anyway depending on the wishes of the testator.

Does a professional executor get paid?

A professional executor such as a solicitor, a bank, or a company such as Probate A Will, dedicated to this kind of work, would charge for their services. However, this charge can often be seen as well worth paying because it will save the named executor a lot of time and stress – the will can be executed much more quickly, and the chances of any mistakes being made are minimal when a professional is in charge.

If a professional is named in the will, the beneficiaries must all agree to this body being used, and if they cannot agree then they must ask the executor to step down and renounce the task. The next of kin is then able to administer the estate, or appoint someone else to do so.

Is there anything an executor can be paid for?

Although an executor cannot charge for their time, or the hard work they put into executing the will, they can claim for expenses. This might be the grant of probate application fee, funeral costs, costs for the wake, paying off utility bills, and postage costs, for example.

The Reading Of The Will

Everyone will have seen it in the movies; a gathering of potential beneficiaries gathered in a solicitor’s office, listening to the formal reading of the will of their recently deceased relative. It’s an evocative image, and one that many people believe is the truth, but the reality is that this does not happen – there is no actual formal reading of the will, and certainly not all of the beneficiaries need to be together when the will is looked at.

Since the fiction and the fact get so confused on this matter, what does actually happen when the contents of the will are discovered?

Firstly, the testator must be dead before the will can be read by anyone else. No one has the right to see (and certainly not to influence) the will before the testator dies, and, unless the testator themselves wants to show it to others, then it should be kept in a safe place, ideally under lock and key. It is also important to remember, on a similar point, that nothing in the will can come to pass until the testator is dead. Once they have died, the contents of the will can come into effect, thanks to the efforts of the executor.

Another important piece of advice: again, the movies have a lot to answer for as you will often see that wills are read out after the funeral service. Since many people include directions for their funerals within their wills, this would be a mistake, and the will should be read as soon after the death as possible. If the executor is not the person arranging the funeral then the person who is dealing with it should be allowed to see the part of the will pertaining to the service and instructions on what should be done with the body. They won’t need to see the rest of the will.

Generally, the executor is the only person who will (and must) read the will. If they then choose to allow others to read it, then that is their choice, but there is no law that says they must, and if they feel that it would do more harm than good, then they are well within their rights to refuse if they are asked, even if that person is a family member.

Although they may not be entitled to see the will, any beneficiary is of course entitled to find out what they are to receive from the estate, and they must therefore be informed that they are a beneficiary. This does not mean that they need to be given a copy of the will, or shown the original will, however; they can simply be told of the contents. Plus, they only need to know what they are receiving, and not what anyone else who is mentioned in the will will get.

After probate is completed, the original will is submitted to the Probate Registry, and it becomes a public document so anyone, whether they are involved in the estate or not, can see what was written in it.

The Executor’s Expense

An executor is the person who has to ‘execute’ the will of the deceased. That means that they need to deal with the administration of the estate, and ensure that each beneficiary receives their inheritance. It can be a difficult job, and certainly one that takes a long time (especially if the executor has a full time job to deal with as well). It can be costly too, and that is where the executor’s expense comes in.

There are some costs that are unavoidable when it comes to executing a will. The amounts are often small amounts, but all added together they can become a fairly large amount, and for some the cost can even become difficult to manage. This is why the executor is able to claim back certain expenses from the estate, if they have been incurred through the administration of that estate, and if those expenses have gone on to benefit the estate and its beneficiaries.

There isn’t an exact list as to what is (or what isn’t) an expense that can be claimed back by the executor, as it will depend from estate to estate, but here are some to consider that might be allowable:

  • Postage costs
  • Paying off utility bills
  • Maintenance to any property such as a gardener
  • Valuations for assets
  • Clearing costs
  • Cleaning costs
  • Insurances
  • Mileage (although this expense can only be claimed if the executor has had to travel a long way from their home to the deceased’s to carry out the administration).

Expenses that are claimed for can be rejected by the beneficiaries in some cases. This will happen if the cost was incurred for something that did not go on to benefit the estate in any way, or if there is no evidence that the executor had such a cost in the first place.

This is why it is important for the executor to keep records and receipts of everything that have spent, so that there can be no challenges and the executor is not left out of pocket.

End Of Life Decisions Are Still Difficult To Talk About

A recent survey has shown that the majority of people are still uncomfortable with talking about end of life decisions. That includes anything from writing their will, to discussing its contents, to talking about what might happen if they developed a terminal illness, or even if they were killed suddenly in an accident. The problem with not discussing these issues is that they do still happen – people will always die – and if their wishes have not been talked about and contingency plans are not in place to help with finances, family, even businesses, then all kinds of difficult problems can arise.

These problems would not exist if a will had been written, the contents discussed, and end of life care plans been put in place.

We can all understand why these things are not topics of everyday conversation, but perhaps they should be. Perhaps we all need to stop worrying about making others feel uncomfortable and start to talk about death more. After all, it is inevitable, and by talking about it, we can normalise it. This can have a hugely positive impact on those who are left behind both in terms of how they grieve and also in practical terms. They will know how to log into online banking, for example, or which direct debits need to be changed or stopped. They will know what happens with the mortgage or rent, and will know about any life insurance policies you have in place.

It may be an uncomfortable thing to discuss, but it is also essential.

Can A Minor Be A Beneficiary In A Will?

Parents will, for the most part, want to name their children as a beneficiary of their estate once they have died. But what happens if that child is a minor (under 18) at that time? Are they able to inherit?

The answer is that they are not able to receive their inheritance, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t name them as a beneficiary. It may sound strange, but as long as you include a caveat within the will that states that if the child is under 18 at the time of your death then their inheritance will go into trust, then there should be no problem.

But even if you don’t specify what type of trust you wish your child’s inheritance to go into, there will be an automatic trust arranged. This trust (over which you will have no say as it won’t have been arranged in advance) means that your executor will have the responsibility of the money, property, or other assets until your child becomes an adult at the age of 18.

If you set up a trust yourself, you can choose any age (over the age of 18) for your child to receive their inheritance. This can be useful if the sums are particularly large, and you feel that you would want your child or children to inherit only when they are more financially responsible, which often comes with age.

Sometimes it can be a good idea for the trustee of your child’s trust to also be the person named as their guardian. This means that everything can be looked after in one place, and there will be no confusion. However, it is perfectly possible to name different people for each role. As long as the information is written in your will, and discussed (ideally) with the people concerned beforehand, then everyone will understand what is to happen, and how.

When Can The Property Of A Deceased Person Be Sold?

When someone dies, there is often a question left hanging for relatives about when their property can be sold. There is no single answer to this, but instead the timeframe will depend on certain circumstances. The first thing that needs to be done is to work out how the property is owned. If there is another owner’s names on the deeds, for example, and they are living, then the property can’t be sold without their permission.

The easiest way to find out how a property is owned is to order an official copy of the register. This will come from HM Land Registry, but remember that not all properties will be on this register; if a property has not been sold for many decades, which is entirely possible, then it may not be registered at all. Another point to bear in mind is that even if you do have the deeds they may not be the most up to date if they are extremely old.

There are a number of ways in which a property can be owned. It could be in the sole name of the deceased, or join names with someone else. It could even be ‘tenants in common’ with another person (or sometimes multiple other people).

If the property is owned solely by the deceased, then a grant of probate will be needed before the property can be transferred or sold. Any inheritance tax due on the property must be settled before the grant of probate can be issued.

Any property that is owned as tenants in common will also need a grant of probate before anything can be done with it. However, it is important to note that all owners must be participants in the same unless you are only selling the deceased’s share of the property.

If the property is owned jointly, then no grant of probate is required. The property transfers directly to the surviving owner and if they wish to sell the property they can do without any special permissions required. Remember that the Land Registry must be informed that there is now just one owner of the property rather than two, as this makes selling much easier.

Although the property can’t be sold until probate has been granted, it is a good idea for those who are expecting to inherit the property to get it ready for sale during this time (assuming they want to sell it at all). This will make it much quicker to put it on the market when the time comes. Start by clearing the property of the deceased’s belongings, and carrying out repairs and decorating work.

You can even start marketing the property and look for a buyer, although they must be made aware that the property cannot be transferred to them until probate has been granted.

Contesting A Will Due To Lack of Capacity

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and who is of ‘sound mind’ (that is, has sufficient mental capacity) may make a will. However, if someone believes that the testator was not of sound mind and therefore did not have the mental capacity to know what they were doing when they made their will, they may wish to contest it.

In fact, this reason for contesting a will is increasing, and it may have something to do with the number of people developing various forms of dementia. As people live longer, the chances of them developing a disease such as Alzheimer’s, for example, increases. It seems to follow, then, that there may be a case to contest some wills made be these people. However, it will all depend on when they made the will – before or after their diagnosis, for example.

It’s not just dementia that means someone has a lack of capacity. This problem could come from a head injury, substance abuse, other mental illnesses, or even other medical conditions. The way that it is determined whether someone has a lack of capacity or not goes back to Banks v Goodfellow in 1870. The story behind this is that the testator had been confined to an asylum, and when he was released he developed a severe fear that he was being followed everywhere he went. Despite this, he made a will (and managed his own financial affairs). When he died, the court determined that his will was valid because, although it was clear that he was suffering from some kind of mental illness, it had had no bearing upon the will itself. That is, if he had not had the illness, the will would have been the same.

In general, a court will assume that someone has the capacity to make their will unless they are otherwise informed – with evidence – that this was not the case. The burden of proof falls on the person who made the allegations, and the evidence that they need to supply includes statements about the testator’s general behaviour as well as how far the will strays from their usual behaviour in tone and the information within it, information from the solicitor who prepared the will (assuming there was one), statements from friends and family, and evidence from medical practitioners.

Do You Want A Living Will?

More and more people are making use of the idea of a living will. They are becoming a lot more popular than they have ever been in the UK, and they do, for a lot of people, make sense. They offer people the chance to make their own medical decisions even if they are in a coma, or incapacitated in some way that means they cannot speak, or even think for themselves.

The living will is written when the testator is well so that if they become unwell they have already made their decisions as to what they want to happen to them. By writing these instructions down in a living will, rather than simply telling family and friends, there can be no doubt as to what is expected to happen, and no confusion at an already difficult time. It’s not just family and friends who will benefit from knowing that there are instructions to be adhered to in such a situation; medical professionals will also be able to use it to give the best care that they can.

Living wills are of most use to those who are suffering from terminal illnesses, but can also be used in the event that you are in a coma, for example. They will let the medical staff know whether you wish to be resuscitated if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating, and whether or not you want to be kept alive on machines should the worst happen.

It is possible to change your living will at any time, but if you do change it then the medical practitioners and your family must be made aware, otherwise they may look to the older will, if they even know such a will exists at all.

6 Alternatives to Burial

Not everyone likes the idea of their bodies (or the bodies of their friends and families) being buried. And some religions don’t allow it either. In the past, one of the very few legal alternatives (in the UK) was cremation, but these days there is a lot more choice. Here are just a few of these new ideas.

Cryonics

There is a lot of research going on into cryonics at the moment, and it certainly does has a lot of exciting features going for it when it comes to what happens to us after we die. Cryonics means that the body is frozen without the tissue being damaged, and the people who choose this method of ‘disposal’ (the body is actually kept in storage) are usually the ones who are hopeful that medical discoveries in the future will allow them to be brought back to life. Right now, although the freezing procedure is possible, we are no closer to bringing anyone back from the dead.

Tree Planting

Tree planting would happen after a cremation – the ashes would be placed into soil with a tree seed and then planted. The ashes wouldn’t affect the tree’s DNA or growth, and it’s good for the environment because the more trees that are planted the better. It also means that loved ones have a specific place to come and remember you out in nature.

Aquamation

Aquamation is for those who don’t like the idea of cremation or burial, but understand that something has to happen to their body. Aquamation is the process of using water rather than fire to speed up the deterioration process of the body.

Space Burial

At the moment, a space burial is a costly idea, but an interesting and increasingly popular one nonetheless. You can either have your ashes or – for more money – your entire body launched into space on a rocket. It’s not particularly eco-friendly, but it is exciting!

Dissolution

Dissolution is the process of the body being put into a tank of chemicals that cause it to dissolve quickly. Sometimes the body is dismembered first, depending on the size of the tank. This is not a pleasant thought, but if you are looking for a fuss-free way to dispose of your own body after death, this idea might suit.

Promession

This method of disposal is ideal for those who want to do something for the planet even after they have passed away. This is the process of being turned into fertiliser. It works by freezing the body in liquid nitrogen and then the body being crushed into powder. This powder is then mixed with compost or sprinkled on plants.

How Can You Protect Your Business when You Die?

When you first start thinking of writing a will and estate planning, it’s likely that what you’ll think about first is your personal assets such as your property and bank accounts. You might not think about your business at all. However, what would actually happen to it if you died? Here are some important facts to consider.

Business Property Relief

Did you know that there is a specific inheritance tax relief for businesses? It’s called business property relief (BPR) and it means you can get 100 percent relief on the value of any shares you own in an unquoted business, as long as you have had the shares for at least two years before you die. There is also 50 percent business relief on land, buildings, or machinery owned by the business. This is useful to know if you are thinking about selling or transferring business shares during your lifetime – inheritance tax is charged on the transfer if it happened within seven years before death.

Inheritance Tax Planning

It’s important to speak to a professional when it comes to finding out more about inheritance tax and the planning that can and should be done around it. You will want your estate – and that includes your business – to be as protected as possible for your family who would otherwise have to pay a lot of money to the government. This is why planning everything in advance is a good idea; it may not be fun, and it may not be pleasant, but it is something that needs to be done, the earlier the better.

Business Lasting Powers of Attorney

What can really help when you own a business is to put a business lasting power of attorney (business LPA) into place. This means that someone else will be able to step in and keep your business running when you are unable to do so anymore. This could mean death, but equally it could mean should you have a debilitating accident or develop an illness that made it impossible for you to work.

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