Being chosen as an Executor of someone’s Will is an honour. But it’s also a significant responsibility, at a time which is often fraught with emotion and stress.
Public Trust are experts when it comes to estate administration – they’ve been in the business for over 140 years. One of their flagship services is to act as Executor of a Will in the event of a bereavement. However, in more recent years they realised that they could use their expertise in estate administration to support the family members or friends who have been appointed Executor and guide them through the process.
That’s why a few years ago, Public Trust launched Executor Assist. It’s a dedicated service to provide the specialist advice and administrative support often sought by people who graciously assume the role as Executor of a Will but find themselves flung in the deep end.
The service is also available to Solicitors, picking up part or all of the process and providing administrative support to them whilst allowing them to retain their strong client relationships.
Executor Assist has taken off since its launch with the number of customers using the service doubling each year, proving that there is a real need to provide support for Executors.
Executor Assist’s Manager Jacqui Beilby says their main priority is making sure that Executors are informed and can relax a little knowing that the team are there to support them each step of the way.
“It’s not an easy role. It takes a certain type of person and there is a fair amount of legal and tax expertise required. Research shows that being a private Executor can take around 55 hours on average. That’s a lot of unpaid hours at a time of grief, tension and sometimes strained family dynamics. So it’s important that the right person is appointed as Executor.”
Jacqui is quick to point out that while Executor Assist is there to help, the Executors retain overall control and are provided with a snapshot of what is involved with dealing with the estate.
“We want our Executors to make an informed decision,” says Jacqui, “So we give them an overview of their roles and responsibilities, and any potential barriers in dealing with that particular estate.”
This is then followed up with an email summarising what has been discussed and clearly outlining the charges for the various services offered under Executor Assist. These are based on a combination of set fees and time and attendance, dependent on the level of assistance required. This is contrary to the common misconception that Public Trust charge on a commission basis.
“The fee estimate is transparent,” says Jacqui, “There are no surprises.”
As in life, there is no one-size-fits-all approach in dealing with death, so customers are able to can tailor the Executor Assist services to meet their needs.
“They can pick and choose what support they need,” says Beilby.
Executor Assist offers a Probate Service which obtains the legal authority to deal with the estate; an Administration Service which obtains Probate and takes care of key financial and administration tasks; and an Estate Service which essentially takes care of the entire process from Probate to distributing the estate.
Every estate involves court application for probate. For some people, that’s all they need help with, says Beilby. Others might want assistance with additional aspects. For instance, if a property is involved it will require legal involvement. Executor Assist can also help if there is no Will, however Beilby warns that not having a Will “complicates everything”.
“If you die without a Will, the process for someone to be appointed Administrator is onerous. There are all sorts of hoops to jump through before an application can be made and as a result the application process takes longer.”
She urges people to give some thought to what they would like to happen to their estate. It is important to have a Will and to give careful consideration to who they wish to appoint as Executor, bearing in mind all that is involved. It makes things a little easier for everyone, at a time when life is rather tough.