Before you agree to become an executor of a Will, it is important to understand the role and duties that are involved. It is easy to underestimate the amount of work and the time it takes to execute a Will.

There are several responsibilities and there may be a great deal of administration required. You will need to decide if you want to take on the role of executor or not. You should also think carefully about whether you will be able to carry out the duties.

What is an executor?

The Executor is the person named in the Will to deal with a person’s estate after they die. By “Estate” we mean property, belongings and money. There may be more than one executor of a Will but no more than four.

What are the duties?

The role varies depending on the Will, but the main duties include:

  • Getting hold of the Will (depending on where it is stored you may require ID and the original death certificate)
  • Making copies of the Will for beneficiaries. All co-executors should have a copy of the Will
  • Keeping the copies and original Will safe – no annotations or additions – not even a staple
  • Ensuring that all property owned by the deceased is secure
  • Collecting all the property, belongings and money due to the estate of the deceased
  • Paying outstanding taxes and bills from the money in the estate
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries according to the instructions in the Will (the people named in the Will to inherit the estate)
  • Valuing the Estate

The executor is not the only person who can register the death and notify the GP of the deceased, but it is often the executor that takes on these tasks. Executors often find it beneficial to request several copies of the death certificate at the same time as they will likely need to provide it to several different organisations such as the bank, insurance companies and other accounts. You can choose to employ a solicitor to deal with the estate.

How do you Value the Estate?

The executor is the person who must value the estate of the person who has died. The value is the total amount of wealth in property, possessions and money minus debts including a mortgage. You will need a professional valuation for property and you may also require a professional valuation for valuable possessions.

Insurance

If the deceased was the only person living in the property and it is now unoccupied, as well as making sure it is secure you must inform the insurers. The insurer may ask you to check the property regularly or you may need to get a new policy of the current provider does not cover empty property.

The Bereavement Register

You can use this to stop post arriving for the deceased.

Funeral Arrangements

This may be the responsibility of the Executor but it is not always the case. If there is a funeral plan in place with a provider, you can take the invoice to the bank of the deceased along with the death certificate for payment and your ID. You will want to let people know about the funeral details so they can attend.

A Grant of Probate

You will need to apply for probate to give you the legal right to deal with the estate of the deceased. This can only be done once you have paid any Inheritance Tax (IHT) due. You will need form PA1 and the relevant Inheritance Tax (IHT) form. You can call the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline (0300 123 1072) to get the correct forms. Once completed you will need to send them to the local probate registry along with an official copy of the death certificate, the original Will and three copies of the Will. The fee of £215.

Once you receive the grant of probate, make several copies. When you are dealing with assets you will need to send the grant to asset holders (such as the bank) with instructions. When assets are released you will need to pay the proceeds into the executor’s account.

Financial affairs

It is the executor’s job to send an original death certificate to any asset holders, such as banks, building societies and insurance companies.

  • Cancel direct debits
  • Cancel salary payments, pensions and state benefits
  • Inform relevant government departments (You can use the “Tell us Once Service”) – this will cover things like the DLVA and HMRC
  • Check paperwork and bills to ensure that all outstanding accounts and debts are dealt with – energy suppliers, council tax, telephone bills etc
  • Your bank may allow you to open an executor account so that the money from the estate does not get confused with your own
  • Before you distribute the estate to the beneficiaries, you must settle all bills and debts. You can place a ‘statutory notice for creditors’ in the press, allowing two months for claims to be made. If you don’t, you and any other executor(s) are personally responsible for any claims that arise. If you put up the notice, any future claims are made against the beneficiaries instead.
  • Pay any outstanding taxes and get clearance from HMRC for any Inheritance Tax (IHT), Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax

What if the debts are more than the amount of money available in the estate?

If the estate is insolvent you will need professional help.

Distribute the estate

This is one of the major duties expected of the Executor of the Will. You can only do this once probate has been granted except in the case of specific gifts – perhaps something of sentimental value that has been bequeathed to someone. You will need to have the items valued.

Each beneficiary will need the R185 tax form to receive their share of the estate.

You will need to request bankruptcy searches on all beneficiaries – see the Individual Insolvency Register on the government website. If any of the beneficiaries are bankrupt they may not be permitted to receive their inheritance. It could be that debtors would need to be paid first.

Be sure to follow the instructions in the Will carefully to distribute the estate according to the wishes of the deceased. This process can be complicated further if claim is made against the estate from another party or if the Will is disputed.

Do keep accurate records in case there is any challenge or question over how you have administered the estate. You will need to be organised and pay attention to detail. It helps if you draw up estate accounts for every beneficiary and include both assets and bills.