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Can an executor be a beneficiary of a will?

Our People - Andrew Guile
23 August, 2022

Can executors be beneficiaries?

In short, yes, an executor can be a beneficiary of a will, in fact, it’s quite normal for that to be the case. The only people who cannot be beneficiaries under a will are those who witnessed the will when the deceased signed it.

Therefore, an executor of a will can be a beneficiary, and in reality, the main beneficiary of the estate is often one of the executors. As a result, it is both perfectly legal and commonplace to name the same person as an executor and a beneficiary in a will.

What’s the difference between a beneficiary and an executor?

An executor is someone named in a will and given the power to administer a person’s estate after they have died whereas a beneficiary is someone who inherits money or property under a will.

Executors need to establish how much money, property, assets, investments, etc the person had and distribute the assets or their value in accordance with the person’s wishes as set out in their will.

If a person dies without a will, they are known as ‘intestate’ and the Intestacy Rules apply to determine who can administer their estate. In this scenario, ‘Letters of Administration’ are obtained from the Probate Registry to appoint an ‘administrator’ (most likely a beneficiary or next of kin) to administer the estate.

In contrast, a beneficiary is entitled to either property or money from the estate and only really has an interest in receiving what is due to them. They have no duties to administer the estate.

What are executors’ duties to beneficiaries?

The primary duty of an executor of a will to the beneficiaries is to establish the size of the estate (assets minus debts and any inheritance tax) and pass on the property or money due to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will. Their duties and responsibilities include working through the key stages of the probate process.

However, being an executor can be a complicated, demanding and lengthy commitment and carries with it legal responsibilities until the estate has been fully administered, and beyond if there are trusts involved.

If you would like any help or advice on being an executor or beneficiary of a will, or any issues relating to probate, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Probate Team or get in touch on 020 8492 2290.

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