Surge in wills ‘may mean more executors confused about carrying out wishes’

A recent surge in people putting wills in place during the coronavirus crisis could lead to more executors being unprepared for what their role entails, a legal services company is warning.

Inquiries about wills jumped by more than two-thirds (69%) between March 23, when the coronavirus lockdown started, and June 16 compared with the previous three months, according to Co-op Legal Services’ business data.

But research for Co-op by YouGov in July found that three-quarters (74%) of people have not discussed their wishes with loved ones.

Nearly three in 10 (29%) were not aware of what being an executor, who is responsible for dealing with the estate of someone who has died, entails.

Executors’ duties may include locating the financial documents belonging to the person who died, sending a copy of the death certificate to firms holding the money of the deceased, and finding out about money owed to the estate or money owed by the person who has died.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of the 2,000 people surveyed had taken on the role of an executor.

Of those who had, more than a quarter (26%) found the experience stressful, one in six (16%) found it upsetting, and more than a fifth (21%) had to take time off work to fulfil the requirements of the role.

Among those who were spoken to about their loved one’s intention to make them executor, more than two-thirds (65%) were happy that the conversation took place and a third (33%) said they were clearer about what it will entail.

James Antoniou, head of wills for Co-op, said: “Whilst it’s encouraging that so many people have used the lockdown period to put wills in place, it’s important to ensure the right conversations have taken place with their chosen executors to check they’re happy to take on the role and that they understand the responsibility and what’s expected of them.

“Most UK adults want to depend on friends and family to take up the role of executor, so it’s vital that people understand their options and that the role is properly explained.”

Here are some tips from Mr Antoniou on appointing an executor:

– Understand the duties of being executor and what is involved.

– Only appoint somebody you trust and who is willing to give up their time to carry out the role.

– Make sure the executors you choose get on and are able to work together.

– Talk to your chosen executors before finalising your will.

– If you want peace of mind that your executors are impartial, and your estate is administered correctly, you could consider appointing a professional executor regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.