England rocked by ‘countless’ succession wars – family feuds worse ‘because no one agrees’ | Personal Finance | Finance

Being asked to execute a loved one’s last will and testament can seem like a great honor. But it soon turns into a nightmare.

This includes carrying out their final instructions, administering probate and distributing property, money and possessions to the right people.

It is a Complicated work even in the simplest of gardens, and usually eats up months of your time. Or even years.

And if something goes wrong, being an executor keeps your head down. The same goes for your bank account, where you have unlimited legal and financial liability for any errors, even if they are genuine mistakes.

Don’t expect beneficiaries to forgive you if you slip up, because there’s a lot of money at stake.

Ultimately, any losses or defects may come out of your pocket. Who on earth would do that?

Millions of us do because we want to help the ones we love. And because it’s hard to say no.

Yet many don’t realize what they’re doing until it’s too late.

Being an executor means making tough decisions, such as deciding when to sell an asset, so that the beneficiaries get the most money.

This includes ensuring that the correct amount of inheritance tax, capital gains tax and income tax is paid.

These taxes are complicated and HM Revenue & Customs won’t be impressed if you get the details wrong.

James Mabe, senior partner at solicitors Winkworth Sherwood, warned that if you miss important deadlines, you could face financial penalties and be liable to beneficiaries if anything goes wrong.

For many performers, this is their first time performing the role. Dealing with the court system, HMRC, Land Registry and other financial institutions can be a real challenge.

read more: What is a professional test and can it help you avoid IHT?

Managing an estate is time-consuming and most correspondence should be done by letter rather than email, Mabe added. “The amount of work is often surprising.”

It also comes at a difficult time when you may be grieving the loss of a loved one.

Expect to come under pressure from family members, Mabe added. “Beneficiaries can get restless and want to know when an asset will be sold or when they will receive their inheritance.”

Family disputes can make probate tricky and expensive, said Jenny Walsh, a partner specializing in wills and trusts at Osbornes Law. “We see countless situations where everything comes to a standstill, amid lingering resentments or disagreements between family members.”

Problems often arise when siblings or other friends or relatives do not act as executors, or an executor believes the estate has been unfairly divided. “Agreeing on everything from getting technology, closing bank accounts and paying bills, to selling the family home becomes impossible.”

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Executors are supposed to be neutral and there is an inherent conflict in their role if one or more take issue with how the estate is divided, Walsh added.

He added that it would make sense to hire a lawyer to undertake the task instead. “They can act independently and, when conflicts arise, take steps to reach an agreement.”

Unlike executors, solicitors have professional indemnity insurance which provides them with financial protection in the event of wrongdoing.

Naturally, hiring a professional costs money.

Generally, solicitors charge between 1.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent of the total value of the estate, plus VAT.

Therefore, an estate of £500,000 will cost between £7,500 and £17,500 VAT, depending on the complexity of the case and the solicitor’s fees.

The downside is that the executor does not pay. Instead, the cost leaves the estate.

The person who fulfills it can carry out their loved one’s last wish without mourning.

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