Can a charity act as an executor to a will?

Ashley Rowthorn Good Practice in Legacy Management

On occasion, your charity may be asked to become the executor of a Will, either by someone who is making their Will, or in respect of a person who has died leaving a Will but their named executor is unable or unwilling to act. Should you agree to do this and what are the risks and benefits?

In either case, one of the first things to consider is, does your charity have Trust Corporation status? If it does, this is preferable, because the grant will be in the name of the charity itself.

If a charity does not have Trust Corporation status, the grant must be taken out by an individual at that charity and the individual will have to be indemnified in the position by the charity. If a charity has the required internal resources, one of the main advantages of being able to offer the executorship is saving the associated legal costs. It is, however, quite usual for a charity to instruct an independent solicitor to extract the grant and administer the estate even if they have qualified personnel.

Another advantage is the ability to have control over an estate, ensuring it is administered properly, in a timely fashion and recognising any opportunities to maximise income.

A prospective testator should be asked key questions about their personal circumstances, e.g. in the event of their death, where is their will kept, and who will be responsible for advising you of their death? Clearly some sensitivity is required here, but it is essential that you are aware of this important information.

Should your charity be asked to take out the grant, and in principle is in agreement, the important points to consider before accepting are:

  • Why is the named executor not acting? Make sure you are aware of the reasons and consider whether this may have an impact on your own decision.
  • Is the estate solvent? Ask whoever has contacted you about the estate about the known assets and liabilities. Make sure your charity’s resources would be used wisely.
  • Are there any issues which may give rise to a claim against the estate?
  • Do you have the necessary resources?
  • Would you be instructing a solicitor to undertake the necessary work?
  • Has any work has already been carried out in respect of the administration, what is it and by whom?

In any situation in which your charity is asked to act as executor, it is a decision not to be taken lightly. The role carries serious legal responsibility and an administration can take months, or even years, to conclude. It is highly recommended that further advice is sought, if necessary.

To request a more detailed guide regarding Charities as Executors please use the contact form on our website www.legacy-link.co.uk