The serious role of executor

Tom pettman portrait.

Tom Pettman


Phone 01264 325810


The executor of a Will is reported to have received a prison sentence following a failure to meet his duties. 

The story goes that the man’s niece and nephew had started a legal process to force him to hand over inheritance money to which they were entitled from their grandmother’s (the man’s mother’s) estate. After failing to comply with the court’s order in relation to the assets of the estate and his dealings with it, he was given a six-week prison sentence.

As well as highlighting the potential consequences of contempt of court, this story is a reminder of the serious role that an executor plays after a person’s death. Accepting the position of executor means agreeing to take on duties in relation to the person who has died and their estate. The executor may be responsible for registering the death and arranging the funeral, for example. They will also (solely, or together with another executor if the Will provides for that) have to gather and deal with the estate’s assets and liabilities, which of course includes distributing inheritance to beneficiaries.

This is often no mean feat, which is why we always advise clients to consider very carefully who they should appoint as executors of their Will. Where someone has a complex estate, perhaps including foreign assets or an intricate investment portfolio, it can be wise to use a professional executor or at least someone known to have the particular skills to handle the information and the issues that will be involved. Even seemingly straightforward estates can prove problematic, however, so it’s always best to talk through your options for executors with your solicitor when drawing up your Will.

The general point to bear in mind is that your executor should be someone you can count on. You need to be able to rely on them to do a good job of dealing with the practicalities of your estate. You also need to trust that they’ll do the right thing. That may be impossible to predict with complete certainty (and there can be all sorts of reasons for things not working out as planned), but it’s something everyone who makes a Will should try to get as close to as possible.

For advice about being an executor, appointing an executor, or anything to do with Wills and estate administration, contact the Private Client team on 01264 353411 or at 

Go back

Expert Legal Support For All Your Legal Needs

Find out more about how we can help you in your circumstances by contacting us. You can call us on 01264 353411email us at or complete our online enquiry form.