Appointing an Executor

executorUnder the law, only one executor is required to be appointed in the will. However, through experience, Peter Lee advises that at least two be appointed, arranged according to priority, in the event that the first executor is unwilling or unable to carry out the duties. A testator is allowed to appoint up to four executors.

For the substitute executors of separate wills of a husband and wife, it would be better to have the same person appointed, in the event of a common disaster. If different people were appointed, these two parties would have to work together and at the same pace to execute the two wills.

The executor is someone who is at least 21 years of age and trustworthy in the eyes of the testator. His (or her) role would be to apply for the Grant of Probate from the High Court in the event of the testator’s death. He (or she) may need to engage a lawyer to do so.

Once the probate is obtained, the executor, who is entitled to claim up to a maximum of 5% to the value of the estate, subject to approval of the High Court, for all his (or her) troubles, will obtain a court order to collect assets, such as savings from the bank, shares, mutual funds, unit trusts and land titles from the Land Office.

The executor will then put up a notification in the newspapers to creditors, if any, and only proceed with the distribution of net wealth according to the conditions inside the will, after a lapse of two months and all debts owed by the estate repaid. If the executor fails to settle a debt, such as personal income tax owed to the Inland Revenue Department after the wealth is distributed, he may have to bear it himself.

In the event that the beneficiaries are below 21 years of age, a guardian has to be appointed to care for the children. Similar to the appointment of an administrator(s) or executor(s), the guardian has to be carefully chosen because he or she will be the substitute parent. Although anyone above the age of 21 and capable of taking care of children can be a guardian, you would want someone whom the child already has a close relationship with.

Beneficiaries below 18 years old cannot receive assets. Under such circumstances, the executors would usually automatically become the trustees, and hold in trust for the estate.

The question is, what if the trustee passes away before his responsibility is over? In such a scenario, the executor of the trustee’s estate will also have to take responsibility of the trust. This execution of the executor’s will, underlines the crucial need to appoint a corporate trustee instead of an individual executor.

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