The role of the executor
29 July 2016
You have been asked to be someone’s executor – what does this mean?
The first tasks are to register the person’s death and to arrange the funeral, although there may be members of the family who will deal with this.
The executor has a legal duty to safeguard the assets of the estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the will. This will include ensuring the person’s house is secure and adequately insured during the administration period.
You will need to collate information on all the assets and liabilities of the person’s estate, which will involve writing to the various banks, building societies, credit card companies, share registrars and so on and obtaining valuations of the investments as of the date of death. It will also be necessary to obtain a valuation of any property and the contents.
Depending on the value of the estate, you may then need to apply for a grant of probate in order to deal with these assets. This will involve submitting an account to HM Revenue & Customs, arranging payment of any inheritance tax and swearing an oath which will form the application to the Probate Registry.
Once you have obtained the grant of probate, this document will allow you to cash in or transfer the assets, including any property. The proceeds of the assets will then be used to pay any debts of the estate and the balance will be divided among the beneficiaries of the estate, according to the will. You will need to provide residuary beneficiaries with detailed accounts of the estate.
An executor’s job can last from a few months to a number of years, depending on the complexity of the estate. It is an onerous and unpaid task, but you can delegate all the tasks, including contacting the various financial institutions, preparing the paperwork for HM Revenue & Customs, the Probate Registry and the accounts for the beneficiaries, to a solicitor. The fees of such a solicitor are a legitimate expense of the estate.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.