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Can an Executor be a Beneficiary of a Will?

When preparing to make a last will and testament, many people ask whether the estate executor can also be a beneficiary. The short answer is yes, it is perfectly normal and legal to name a beneficiary as an executor of a will and vice versa. 

Despite the common misconception that an executor cannot be named as a beneficiary of a will, it is actually a very common practice. For most testators, the chosen executor will usually be someone very close to you, to whom you will also want to give a gift from your estate. 

It is frequently the case that the executor is a primary beneficiary of the estate, or even the sole beneficiary, because they are often a family member or close friend of the deceased. It is, therefore, both perfectly legal and commonplace to name the same person as an executor and a beneficiary in your last will and testament.

Below, we explain what an executor of a will is, what a beneficiary is, and cover any restrictions executors and beneficiaries may face. If you have any questions we have not answered, our expert Wills and Probate solicitors are happy to speak to you regarding your query and provide the legal services you need. You can contact us by completing the enquiry form below or by calling 0151 666 9090.

What Is an Executor of a Will?

The executor of a will is the person chosen by the testator (the person who creates the will) to administer the testator's estate after they die. Usually, one or two executors are chosen, and typically they are family members, close friends or professional executors, like a solicitor. 

The executor deals with the estate's assets, which include everything the deceased owned, like money, property, and possessions. The executor will correspond with everyone involved in the estate, including estate beneficiaries. They will be responsible for selling estate property. They will also calculate the value of the estate, apply for probate, and deal with any debts and taxes that must be paid. Finally, they have a legal responsibility for distributing assets and gifts to the beneficiaries named in the will, according to the wishes of the deceased.

What Is a Beneficiary of a Will?

Beneficiaries are the individuals who inherit the money, property, possessions and other estate assets after a person dies. A beneficiary must be named in the will in order to inherit anything from the estate - or, where there is no will, they may inherit under the intestacy rules. The intestacy rules specify that estates with no will are inherited automatically by the surviving spouse, or if the deceased was unmarried, to any children or grandchildren.

Beneficiaries can be gifted specific sums of money, personal items, or a share of what is left in the estate after all debts and other gifts have been paid. The details of who inherits what must be provided in the will - beneficiaries cannot distribute the deceased's assets among themselves, although they are free to do with the gifts they receive as they wish.

Are There Restrictions on Who Can Be an Executor?

Anyone over the age of 18 can be an executor, but you must name them in your will to ensure they are appointed. Most people choose immediate family members such as a spouse, civil partner, or children. You can choose up to four executors to act at the same time; however, they must act jointly and make decisions together, so it is often impractical to name that many executors.

Having said this, it is also quite practical to name more than one. If an executor refuses to carry out their duties or dies in the process of probate, any surviving Executor can deal with the estate. Having more than one Executor also means they can share the responsibility of administering the estate during a period that can be quite stressful. 

It is also advisable to ask your executors if they are happy to carry out the role before appointing them. If you do not name an executor, a member of your family, friend or other loved one may apply for the role during the probate process.

Are There Restrictions on Beneficiaries? 

The main restriction for beneficiaries is that they cannot witness a will. In fact, witnesses to your last will and testament cannot be named as beneficiaries or executors. Under the Wills Act, two witnesses must be present and sign the will in order for it to be legally valid. This is to confirm that the testator is who they say they are, the signature is not forged, they have mental capacity, and they are not being coerced into signing the will. 

Witnesses must:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Not be an executor or beneficiary of the will
  • Not be related to the testator or any beneficiaries by blood, marriage, or civil partnership

Without the presence and signature of two witnesses, the will is not valid or legally binding. The presence of witnesses can be defined as “being in the line of sight of each other during the signing process”. This is one reason why people often use a professional will-writing service, as a solicitor can help you to prepare the document and act as a witness with no expectation that they will receive a gift in the will.

It is also worth noting that beneficiaries do not have to pay Inheritance Tax – this responsibility lies with the executor when they value the estate assets during the probate process. It is down to the executor to ensure that the estate is distributed fairly and that beneficiaries receive the gifts they are due once any Inheritance Tax, debts, and other liabilities have been paid from the estate.

How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help? 

At Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors, we have a team of dedicated wills and probate solicitors who are ready to help you resolve your query or issue relating to this area of the law as quickly and effectively as possible.

Figuring out the complexities of being an executor and/or a beneficiary can sometimes be stressful. While there is no issue being both an executor and a beneficiary, you may still have some questions surrounding the probate process more generally or need support to resolve conflict with other beneficiaries or executors. Our probate solicitors have a wealth of experience in helping executors to administer an estate after a death, and can help you deal with any potential legal issues along the way.  They can assist you in this complex area of law and give you peace of mind when it comes to your loved one’s estate. 

Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts

To speak to our Wills and Probate team for advice, contact Percy Hughes & Roberts for a no-obligation phone consultation today. We provide ourselves on offering expert advice that's easy to understand, and we will be with you through every step of the legal process.

Call us on 0151 666 9090, or fill out an online enquiry form to arrange for us to get in touch at a time that's suitable for you.

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