They do not have to have the skills to administer an estate without assistance: they are perfectly entitled to take professional advice, the costs of which are deductible from the assets of the estate: they are not payable by the Executors personally.
It is important to choose Executors who will recognise when they need to seek advice rather than carrying on in ignorance and possibly costing the estate in the long term if they have acted inappropriately.
Many people would choose their relatives, such as their spouse, partner or children and that is absolutely fine. An Executor can benefit from a Will.
If however there are any family conflicts, or there is the potential for family conflict, do be realistic when selecting your Executors. It is rarely the case that people who have had a strained relationship during your lifetime, are likely to work together well after your passing.
Also, do think about the actions which the Executors will have to take in relation to your assets, after your death. If you own an active trading company, will they know what to do? If your Executors will also have to act as Trustees, and make discretionary decisions, do they know where to begin?
In our contentious probate work, we have come across many lay Executors who have acted, or are acting, well outside the remit of their duties. For example, they have charged expenses to the estate which are not properly deductible; they have decided to rent out or occupy property when they are not entitled to do so; in some cases we have encountered Executors who have “chosen” not to pay substantial sums of money over to Charities simply because they (the Executors) did not approve of the deceased person’s decision to benefit Charities!
If you wish to avoid family conflicts; or wish to ensure that your estate is managed correctly; or if you cannot identify individuals whom you would entrust to deal with your estate, then you should consider appointing professionals, such as solicitors. In the long run appointing professionals can actually save your estate money by ensuring that your estate is dealt with in a timely and professional manner and that all funds are paid out and accounted for correctly. Here at Barrett and Co we are happy to advise you both on when we would recommend the use of professional Executors, and when we would advise you that it is simply not necessary.