Executor Duties and Responsibilities Explained

Author:
Rebecca Mitchell-Smith
Private Client Solicitor
Date:
30/10/2019

When someone close to you dies, you may find that you’ve been appointed as their Executor in their Will. They probably discussed this with you when they were alive so this shouldn’t be too much of a shock but you may not know exactly what’s expected of you.

As an Executor of a Will in England or Wales, your role will be to manage and administer their Estate (everything they owned) according to their Will and make sure their wishes are carried out.

Being an Executor is quite a responsibility. You are legally responsible for making sure the correct amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) is paid, applying for the Grant of Probate, gathering in the assets and distributing them to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the Will.

The Probate process can be long and complicated so you should make sure that you are prepared to take on the responsibility yourself.

If you do decide you don’t want to be an Executor you can renounce (resign). In order to renounce yourself, you’ll need to complete a document called a Deed of Renunciation and someone else will have to take over the role of Executor.

Alternatively, you could simply instruct a Probate Solicitor to handle all the work for you. This means that you remain as Executor, but a Probate Solicitor will act on your behalf and deal with HMRC and administer the Estate and their fees will be paid from the Estate. Because the Probate process is work which our Probate Solicitors do every day, they will use their experience to complete Probate as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For more information and free initial legal advice call our Probate Solicitors.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

What Does an Executor Do?

As an Executor, you’ll administer the Estate of the person who died and follow their wishes from their Will. Depending on the value of the Estate, you may or may not need to apply for a Grant of Probate.

You’ll need to value their Estate. This will include any property, investments, cash and other valuable belongings such as a car or jewellery. You’ll need to collect any money owed to the Estate and pay off any debts owed. This could include refunds or outstanding bills from utilities for example.

Once you’ve valued the Estate, you’ll need to calculate how much (if any) Inheritance Tax you need to pay on behalf of the Estate. Once you’ve completed the correct IHT forms and paid any outstanding Inheritance Tax, you can apply for a Grant of Probate if you need one.

Once Probate is through you can pay any liabilities and distribute the Estate assets to the beneficiaries as directed in the Will.

Executor Duties

Some of the key duties of an Executor are:

Register the Death

This is usually done by a relative and can be done at any Register Office. If you go to the Register Office near where the person died, you can get the documents there and then. It usually takes about half an hour but it’s best to make an appointment.

Arrange the Funeral

There may be special funeral wishes in the Will so contact the funeral directors to let them know. You’ll also need to pay for the funeral, which is usually paid directly from the bank or building society account of the person who Most people should be aware of the death but it’s a good idea to post a notice in the local press outlining the funeral plans.

Get the Will

Find the most up-to-date version of the Will and get the original Will if this is being held at a Solicitor’s office. It is likely you’ll need to produce the death certificate and proof of your ID to collect the original Will if it is being held by a solicitor. If there is more than one Executor, everyone must decide together that they are happy for you to get the Will.

Finances

This is perhaps one of the most important parts of dealing with an Estate. You should:

  • Send an official copy of the death certificate to any banks, building societies or investment companies and request balance information.
  • Cancel direct debits and find out bank balances and investment values.
  • If the person was still working, inform their employer of their death.
  • Use the government Tell Us Once service if it’s available in your area. It will inform most government organisations in one go, rather than having to contact them individually. If it’s not available in your area, you can see all the organisations you need to contact here.
  • Notify TV Licencing.
  • Request any information on any debts in the Estate.
  • Talk to HMRC for information on any Inheritance, Income or Capital Gains Tax liability.

Property and Post

If the property is now unoccupied, you need to inform the insurance company and they’ll probably change the policy. You’ll also need to check the property on a regular basis and collect the post. You can contact the Bereavement Register to remove the person who died from all mailing lists. This should stop unwanted post being sent, but may take six weeks to take effect.

Value the Estate

Get a professional valuation of anything valuable. This includes property or land. If you think something is worth more than £500 then have it valued professionally. Review everything they owned when they died such as property, cash, cars and belongings. You should deduct any debts such as mortgages, loans and outstanding bills. You will have to prepare Estate accounts which show all of the Estate assets and liabilities.

Pay any Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax is payable on any Estates worth more than £325,000 (the Inheritance Tax threshold). If the person who died was a surviving partner in a marriage or civil partnership, there may be a transferable Nil Rate Band, meaning the Estate does not pay Inheritance Tax on anything up to £650,000, with an additional £150,000 available if a property is passed to direct descendants such as children or grandchildren. You must make sure you get the Inheritance Tax calculation correct as you will be legally responsible if not.

Apply for Probate

Once you’ve done all of this, you can apply for the Grant of Probate if you need one. If it is a low value estate, you may not need one. Speak to the financial institutions about their limits, as each one has different thresholds for when Probate is required.

Collect the Assets

Once the Grant of Probate has been obtained, you will need to arrange for the assets to be sold or accounts closed. You should have opened a separate Executor’s bank account and the Grant of Probate can be used to transfer the funds from the deceased’s bank account or the sale of their property into this account.   You will also need to pay any final utility bills or money that was owing when the deceased passed away.

Distribute the Estate

You must make sure you carry out all necessary checks before you start to distribute the Estate. Once these checks are done, you can distribute the assets according to the Will. Some beneficiaries may be under the age of 18, so their share of the Estate will be held on trust until they become an adult. If you are an Executor, it is likely you will also be a Trustee of any trust which the Will sets up.  

Being an Executor is a long and admin heavy job. It can be particularly challenging to manage whilst you are dealing with the loss of a loved one and it can take a year or more to bring to completion.

As an Executor, you’re also legally responsible to get things right, and it can be easy to miss certain things throughout this long process; which is why many people choose to use the expertise of a Probate Solicitor.

For free legal advice call our Probate Solicitors

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