The Testator, Beneficiary, Executor, and Witness: The major roles involved in writing a legal Will.
There are several key terms that describe people in relation to your legal Will. During the estate planning process, keep these terms in mind.
- Testator: The person creating or leaving a Last Will and Testament.
- Beneficiary: A person who receives a gift as per the Last Will and Testament. This can be a person, a charity, or any other organisation.
- Executor: A person selected by the testator who carries out the Last Will and Testament. Executors will distribute assets, deal with creditors, make tax payments, and perform other services on behalf of the estate. The executor can also be a beneficiary.
- Executors are usually compensated for their services. In most jurisdictions, 5% of the aggregate value of the estate is generally the maximum payment, and executors are commonly awarded 2.5-3.5%.
- The Executor can be a friend or family member, or you can employ the services of a professional; usually a lawyer or department within a bank. Lawyers and solicitors have been known however to charge not only a percentage of the estate, but also an hourly fee which has led to some criticism.
- Witness: A competent person who has reached age of majority that is present with the testator for the signing and dating of the legal Will. Witnesses have to to be disinterested parties; in other words, they can not be a beneficiary, and witnessing a Will can cause a beneficiary to forfeit their gift (disinheritance), or even challenge the validity of the entire Will. In some jurisdictions the spouse of a beneficiary is also disqualified from being a witness. So at ExpatLegalWills.com we generally recommend that the person has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the Will, just to be on the safe side.
- In most jurisdictions, you will need two witnesses.
- An executor can be a witness, but only if they are not a beneficiary.