The Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor
An Executor is a person named in the Will who has authority to deal with the administration of the estate of the person that has passed away.
The Executor must wind up the deceased's affairs, settle any debts and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will.
An Executor who acts wrongly may have to pay compensation to beneficiaries out of their own money so in order to protect yourself, it is a good idea to obtain help and advice from a Solicitor who will guide you through the process.
There are a number of duties an Executor must carry out and these will depend on the value and complexity of the estate.
The main duties of an Executor are as follows;
- Find the deceased's Will. There will usually be a copy of the Will amongst the deceased's papers at home. There will normally be an indication as to where the original Will is held which may be with a Solicitor or in a Bank safe deposit box. The original Will is required when making the application for the Grant of Probate.
- Register the death of the deceased and obtain official copies of the Death Certificate. The death must be registered within 5 working days from the date of death. Due to Covid-19, the requirements for registering a death have changed and have in fact been simplified. The death will be registered over the telephone at the deceased's Local Registry Office and Certificates can be ordered either online or over the phone and will be sent out in the post.
- Organise the funeral. It is necessary to check the deceased's Will to see whether any funeral wishes have been included. It is important to check to see whether the deceased made a pre-paid funeral plan during their lifetime. If there is no funeral plan in place, contact will need to be made with a Funeral Director who will assist you to organise the funeral. An Executor does not necessarily have to fund the funeral from their own monies, the deceased's bank provider will usually release a cheque for the funeral expenses upon sight of the original funeral invoice (provided that there are sufficient funds in the account to do so).
- Secure the deceased's property and check it is insured. If the deceased owned a property, the Executors should make sure the property insurance cover is in place. The Insurance Company will make a note on their system that the property is unoccupied and they will usually apply endorsements to the policy, for example to check on the property weekly. The Executor is duty bound to comply with any endorsements on the Policy.
- Ascertain the Assets and Liabilities. When someone dies, all of their assets (i.e. house, cash, investments and personal belongings) become the responsibility of the Executors. All organisations must be contacted and informed of the deceased's death. The asset providers will usually require sight of the Death Certificate to register the death on their system.
Professional valuations of the assets will need to be obtained as these figures will be required when making the application for the Grant of Probate.
The Executors must provide details of any debts such as funeral invoice, credit cards, loans etc. Debtors should be informed of the deceased's passing as soon as possible to avoid any late payment charges being incurred. As soon as the deceased's bank have been notified of the death, the accounts are frozen and all direct debits will cease.
An Executor can incur personal liability for any unknown creditors that may come forward. It is therefore best practice to place notices in the deceased's local paper and the London Gazette to advertise for any unknown creditors to come forward. This will provide the Executor with some protection if there are any creditors which they were not aware of.
- Apply for a Grant of Probate if required to administer the estate. A Grant of Probate is an official document issued by the Probate Registry to the Executors the deceased's Will. It provides the asset providers with evidence as to who has the legal authority to administer and cash in the deceased's assets.
Before applying for Probate, an Executor will need to ascertain whether there is any inheritance tax due and if so, an Inheritance Tax Return will need to be filed with HM Revenue and Customs (form IHT400). If there is no Inheritance Tax, a more straightforward Return (form IHT205) will be lodged with the Probate Registry when making the application for the Grant.
- Cash in the assets and administer the estate. The Probate Registry will issue sealed copies of the Grant of Probate which must be forwarded to all asset providers. Once the Grant has been registered, the assets can be realised or cashed in.
- Settle any debts. The Executor must make sure all debts and liabilities have been settled before making any final distribution to the beneficiaries.
- Ensure all tax matters have been dealt with. An Executor must make sure there are no outstanding tax liabilities for the period up to the date of death and for the administration period. A Tax Return may be required for the estate administration period depending on the assets within the estate.
- Prepare Estate Accounts. The Executors should prepare Estate Accounts setting out all transactions of the estate administration. This will provide a clear, transparent record to the beneficiaries of all payments received on behalf of the estate or made on behalf of the estate. It is recommended that beneficiaries approve the Accounts before distribution is made.
- Distribute the Estate. As soon as the estate administration has been finalised, the Executors can make distribution to the beneficiaries named in the Will.
Acting as an Executor is a huge responsibility and it is important that an Executor seeks specialist advice to ensure they are fulfilling their duties.
If you have been appointed as an Executor and require assistance, please contact our Wills, Probate and Trusts Team to see out how we can help.