Should you appoint a professional executor in your Will? I know from my time working at several law firms before I set up my own business that many solicitors encourage their clients to appoint one of the partners of the firm, or the firm’s trustee company, as a professional executor in their Will. I also know that I regularly receive calls from clients about updating their Wills in order to quietly remove a professional executor from office!
Perhaps controversially, I am rather cynical about professional executors, because it is strongly in the law firm’s best interests to appoint one, in the hope of ultimately securing the probate business. The client’s best interests are surely better served by being free to make their own choice of probate provider when the time comes, if they would like professional help with winding up the estate.
The professional executor’s hope is, of course, that if you have appointed them in your Will then your family will feel obliged to come back to instruct their firm to wind up your estate when the time comes. As a client, it is important to know that whether or not you appoint a professional executor in your Will, it is always open to you to obtain professional help with winding up an estate, if you would like some.
My feeling is that if you have relatives or friends who are reasonably sensible and good with paperwork then it is usually far preferable to appoint them as your executors and to let them choose whether or not they wish to seek professional help with obtaining probate, and if so, from whom. They will then be able to shop around and make a decision based on whether they like the person they will be dealing with, costs, location and anything else that is important to them.
There is the odd client without any suitable family or close friends whom they would want to act as their executor, and in my view that is the most beneficial and legitimate use of a professional executor, who can then safely be entrusted with the role.
In the recently-decided High Court case of WAG Davidson & Co, the deceased’s daughter felt that her £832,000 estate was simple enough for her to administer herself, and asked WAG Davidson, the Acton law firm appointed as professional executor, to step down. The firm flatly refused. The daughter went to court to have it removed as executor and the litigation took two years, because the firm appealed twice. It was ultimately ordered to pay £25,000 in legal fees. The court said that key factors in the daughter’s favour were that the estate was moderate in size and that it was simple to administer, so it took the view that WAG Davidson & Co should not have insisted on acting. Food for thought for would-be professional executors who are asked to step down.
Chiltern Wills is a friendly, professional Will writing business based in Beaconsfield and run by former London solicitor Rebecca D’Arcy. If you have appointed a professional executor in your Will and you have now decided that you would like to remove them discreetly, call us on 01494 708688 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, no-obligation discussion.