The executor of your will has the job of administering your estate after your death. They will collect all of your assets and distribute them according to your will. Along the way, they will also have to pay any tax and fees which become due, as well as settling any debts. Often the executor will be a family member or close friend, although this will not always the best option: being an executor can be time consuming, at a potentially very tough time, and unless your will is very simple, it may be difficult to do without professional help.
An alternative is to appoint a professional executor. A professional executor is a solicitor, trust firm, or other organisation, who can act as executor for your will, for a fee. A professional executor could be your primary executor, if there is no one close to you who you wish to appoint, or could alternatively be appointed as a second executor, to assist your first one, or as a replacement executor, in case your first choice is unable to act as one.
There are many benefits to a professional executor, over a friend or family member. Firstly, a professional executor will have expertise in probate and tax law, and so will be less likely to make mistakes, and if they do, may be liable, meaning that any loss will not be taken out of your estate. They can also reduce the burden on your friends and family at a difficult time, and should be able to resolve any disagreements impartially. On the other hand, you may feel that someone close to you would be better able to resolve any issues in line with your wishes. The main downside to a professional executor is the cost: they will take a fee for acting as executor, either at an hourly rate, or as a percentage of your total estate. This will be taken out of your estate before any gifts are given to your chosen beneficiaries. If, however, your executor is likely to need to use a solicitor to administer your estate anyway, the cost of appointing a professional executor instead may not be any more costly.