Last week I introduced Andrew and Pip, an English couple living in Dubai, who I helped prepare their last will and testament. One of the key discussions we had was about the necessity of appointing an executor, a crucial role in the administration of their estate.


Understanding the Role of an Executor


I explained to Andrew and Pip, “An executor is a person named in your will to administer your estate, ensuring your wishes are carried out as specified. The role carries both legal and fiduciary responsibilities, requiring the executor to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries.”


They asked about the primary responsibilities of an executor, so I described the main tasks:


1. Obtaining Probate: “The first task,” I said, “is to apply for a grant of probate. This legal document confirms the executor’s authority to manage the estate. The process involves submitting the will, a death certificate, and various forms to the authorities.”


2. Valuing the Estate: “The executor must assess the total value of the deceased’s assets, including property, investments, personal belongings, and any outstanding debts. This valuation is crucial for understanding the estate’s net worth and for tax purposes.”


3. Paying Debts and Taxes: “Before distributing the estate to the beneficiaries, the executor must ensure all debts and liabilities are settled. This includes paying any outstanding bills, loans, and the deceased’s final income tax and inheritance tax.”


4. Distributing the Estate: “Once debts and taxes are paid, the executor distributes the remaining assets according to the terms of the will. This involves transferring property, closing bank accounts, and ensuring that all beneficiaries receive their inheritance as specified.”


5. Keeping Accurate Records: “The executor must maintain detailed records of all transactions, including payments made from the estate and assets distributed to beneficiaries. This transparency helps avoid disputes and ensures that the estate is managed efficiently.”


6. Handling Legal Challenges: “If the will is contested or there are disputes among beneficiaries, the executor is responsible for addressing these challenges, which may involve seeking legal advice and representing the estate in court if necessary.”


Qualities of a Good Executor


Andrew and Pip wanted to know what qualities to look for in an executor. I advised, “Trustworthiness is paramount. The executor must be someone you trust implicitly to manage your estate honestly and competently. Organisational skills are also essential, as the role requires meticulous record-keeping and the ability to manage complex tasks efficiently. Financial acumen is crucial since the executor will handle significant assets and liabilities. Lastly, the executor should act impartially, without favouring any beneficiaries over others, ensuring fair and unbiased management of the estate.”


Challenges Faced by Executors


We also discussed the challenges an executor might face. “The role can be challenging and time-consuming,” I noted. “Executors may face emotional stress, especially if they are grieving the loss of a loved one. Additionally, dealing with legal and financial complexities can be daunting, often requiring professional assistance from solicitors, accountants, or financial advisers.”


Benefits of Using a Professional Executor


Given the complexity of their cross-border estate, I recommended considering a professional executor. “Professional executors have the expertise to navigate the intricate legal and financial landscapes of different jurisdictions, ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations. They bring impartiality and experience, reducing the risk of family conflicts and ensuring efficient estate administration. Moreover, when the number of suitable personal candidates is limited, a professional executor provides a reliable and capable alternative, offering peace of mind that the estate will be handled with utmost professionalism.”




For Andrew and Pip, selecting the right executor was a vital part of their estate planning process. They chose each other initially, and then appointed Andrew’s brother Simon, a lawyer, and Pip’s sister Anne, an accountant, as reserve executors. As I emphasised, “The executor plays a crucial role in ensuring that your final wishes are honoured and that Alex and Lyn, along with other beneficiaries, receive their rightful inheritance. Understanding the responsibilities and challenges of an executor under English law helps in making an informed decision, ensuring the smooth administration of the estate and providing peace of mind for the future.”


By carefully choosing trustworthy and capable executors, Andrew and Pip ensured that their legacy would be managed with diligence and care, reflecting their values and providing security for their loved ones.