Creating a Will can be confusing. Deciding on the people, you include, and their associated tasks can also be stressful and challenging to navigate. To avoid complications, it’s important to consider how your Will is structured and who you list as your executor and beneficiaries.
One question that often gets repeated is, can you name an executor as a beneficiary, or are these two roles mutually exclusive? The simple answer is your executor can also be a beneficiary, and this approach is very common in most circumstances.
Beneficiary vs executor
Before outlining the risks and benefits, let's first explore the differences between a beneficiary vs executor. A beneficiary is someone you choose as a recipient of all or a portion of the assets in your estate that you leave in your Will.
However, an executor is an individual that controls and coordinates the estate so that the deceased’s last wishes are met. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that without a clearly constructed Will these directions are contested.
Responsibilities of an executor
The executor's duties are complex and varied, and choosing an appropriate executor is one of the most important decisions an individual will be required to make. The executor of your estate has several responsibilities, including:
- Locating the original Will
- Applying for Probate (if necessary)
- Organising the funeral
- Creating an inventory of property
- Administering the estate to the beneficiaries
Although appointing a beneficiary as an executor might make the most sense, it’s not necessarily the best approach.
Choosing executors and beneficiaries
Beyond the administrative complexities, choosing a beneficiary as an executor can also be complicated for personally conflicting reasons. There is a possibility things may go wrong if the executor is not playing an independent role in the proceedings.
For example, there is the potential for a disagreement between family members. An alternate avenue might be enlisting multiple executors to provide additional options if one is unwilling to act in this role. Complying with the executor's duties is not a legally binding requirement, so having other options can prove beneficial.
If your executor wishes to resign from the role, they need to file a ‘Renunciation of Probate’ form with the Supreme Court in the state or territory where they are acting as executor. If they decide to renounce their role, they are still entitled to any assets left for them in your Will.
Another strategy, and perhaps a more balanced approach, might be to appoint an independent and paid executor, such as a solicitor. If you foresee disagreements between your beneficiaries – for example, they might be rival siblings, or you have a valuable asset that may fight over – appointing a solicitor to act as an independent executor may avoid any problems.
There is not necessarily a right or wrong path to take. However, it’s important to think through the possible risks and benefits. The best step you can take to ensure your estate and loved ones are protected in the event of your death is to start writing your Will.
Willed makes it easy to create a valid Will and make your final wishes known.