In our experience, when a benefactor draws up a will in which there is more than one beneficiary, it can be very helpful to appoint an independent executor, especially one who has a legal training and genuine mediatory skills. This is especially true where the estate includes property.
Differences of opinion
Owners of property sometimes have very definite ideas of how it should be used once they die but the heirs may well have other ideas and to complicate matters they may also disagree with one another. Some might want to sell outright and use the cash, others to rent the property out for capital growth or to keep the property in the family, and others yet again to keep it for their own use.
If the last course is followed the heirs may have different perspectives about the arrangements on which it is handled and managed. Who, for example, will be responsible for the cleaning? Will a family member be permitted to lend it to his friends on occasions? Who gets the use of the property during certain holiday breaks? What about maintenance and improvements?
The need for an independent executor
Those of us who have regularly helped wind up deceased estates can testify that only too often, even in apparently cohesive harmonious families where there have never been any serious disagreements, once the head of a family dies the siblings all too often experience a degree of tension which is focused around the process of the administration of the estate. Strange as it may sound, this may well be part of the grieving process. In our experience, closure is often not achieved until the estate matters have been settled and dealt with more or less to the satisfaction of all involved.
The executor has, therefore, not only to be highly efficient and to know his law but also to have the ability to handle relationships sympathetically.
Quite often, to save cash the benefactor may well appoint one of his heirs, e.g. the eldest child, as the executor. However this can, in fact, exacerbate rather than alleviate the problem because the executor sometimes finds him / herself the focus of the family grieving process, while also having their own grief to deal with. Hence the need for an independent executor.
We believe that each situation needs to be considered on its own merits, but good professional and independent help is very definitely worth having, both at planning and administration stages especially when long-held treasured family properties form part of the benefactor’s bequest.
If you are in need of an independent executor, please enquire at Gunstons.