Being named as an executor in someone’s Will puts you in a position of great trust and gives you quite a responsibility. As the executor you will be responsible for dealing with probate, which can be a complex and daunting process.
You will have the responsibility of administering the estate and distributing the assets according to the terms of the Will.
It is the executor’s responsibility to ensure that all the debts of the estate are paid, any tax issues are finalised. You will need to locate all the money and property that has been left, and make sure that the assets are protected until they have all been dealt with.
There may be another person appointed with you, probably a family friend or possibly a professional; in which case you will act as joint executors. It’s worth bearing in mind that a professional executor will charge an hourly fee.
In your role as executor, you will need to find out the value of all the money, property, investments and assets that the person who has died owned. This may involve obtaining formal valuations of property or items of personal belongings.
You will need to deal with a number of issues before being able to apply for a Grant of Probate such as:
- Sending a death certificate to any banks, building societies, insurance companies etc, where the person who died held accounts or investments, to notify them of the death and to obtain the date of death value
- Ensuring any overpayment of benefits or pensions is dealt with
- Notifying the beneficiaries of their entitlement under the terms of the Will and verifying who they are
- Gathering information about any debts the deceased had
- Working out the amount of inheritance tax to be paid (if any) and ensuring it is paid within set time limits to avoid any interest or penalties being incurred.
Once all the relevant information has been obtained, the papers to apply for the Grant of Probate can be prepared; you will need the Grant before you are legally entitled to distribute the estate.
Appointing an attorney
In some circumstances, you could appoint an attorney to deal with things on your behalf who would act for you for as long as you require.
There could be any number of expenses incurred in dealing with someone’s estate once they have passed away, such as funeral expenses, the funeral tea or professional valuations. These will be paid for from the estate before any monies are distributed. As an executor, you are entitled to reclaim any reasonable out-of-pocket expenses that you incur in dealing with the estate. It is always advisable to keep receipts for any expenses that you may incur.
As an executor you can be held liable for any losses that you could reasonably have avoided, such as selling assets for less than they were worth or not paying taxes and debts. If you are in any doubt as to your role and responsibilities as an executor, it is always recommended that you obtain legal advice.
Giving up your role as executor
If you change your mind about being an executor you can ‘renounce’(end) your role, providing that you have not already started administering the deceased’s estate and as long as you haven’t taken any action to sort out the money or property of the person who has died. There is a formal legal document called a ‘Deed of Renunciation’ that would need to be completed and again, if you are in any doubt about the legal implications of this or you need help with the renunciation, then it is always advisable to consult a solicitor.
How we can help
Our team of legal experts can provide advice on handling the estate in a range of situations, for example:
- Where the estate involves complex transactions
- The terms of the will are not very clear
- There are beneficiaries under the age of 18
- Money or property has been left in a trust
- Property or land abroad forms part of the estate
- Terms of the will are in dispute
- Appointing attorneys
- Renouncing your role as executor
- Where you are just not sure where to go or how to deal with it
If you would like help in carrying out your duties as an executor, or want more details about your obligations, our friendly team will be happy to help.