Understanding the Role of an Executor
Discuss with your proposed executors that they are willing to accept this role before naming them in your Will. Consider naming an additional or reserve executor in case one can’t, or won’t, act.
Being the Executor of an estate can be a difficult & time consuming job that carries some legal liability. Decisions could make you unpopular with beneficiaries. An executor has to carry out certain tasks in order to legally fulfill the obligations of the job.
- The executors may need to obtain a copy of the medical certificate indicating cause of death, and a formal notice from the doctor, if the family members do not wish to do
- Register the death at the local Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages if there are no family members wishing to do so. The death must be registered in order to obtain the death certificate. It’s advisable to get multiple copies as it will be needed when dealing with banks, insurance companies, pension providers etc.
- The executors could be responsible for making sure any last wishes, such as organ or body donations, are carried out. The job may also include planning the funeral or cremation and arranging for payments for the services provided.
- The executors must have the last original Will of the the decseased. The testator should have advised of its location.
- Locate all the heirs. This might seem like an easy task and, if there’s only a couple of children and they are the only ones named in the Will, it’s easy. If there are numerous heirs that are named in the Will, either collectively or individually, then the executors must locate each and every one.
- Make an exhaustive list of all the assets of the estate including property, bank accounts, investments etc. Also all the debts including credit cards, utility bills, loans etc.
- It is advisable to open a separate bank account to prevent estate monies being confused with personal finances.
- Notify all businesses of the death eg. utility companies, credit card companies, banks, council tax offices, social security etc.
- Make sure that all the deceased’s debts are settled before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.
- If there are minor or dependent children, the executors could be responsible for arranging for their care and placement. The deceased might have their wishes stated in the Will but, if not, the courts might need to be involved in their placement. If there are pets, the executors will need to care for them and make arrangements for their continued care.
- Pay any Inheritance Tax necessary.
- The executors must declare the value of the estate to HMRC on an Inheritance Tax return within 12 months of death.
- Payments of the deceased’s tax is the executor’s personal responsibility. Failure to submit an accurate account to HMRC may leave the executors open to personal liability or penalty.
- Contact the local Probate Registry to either obtain the Grant of Probate or the Grant of Administration.
- Distribute the contents of the Will making sure that if anything is to be left to minors, a trustee has been named.
- After the executors have completed all of the tasks they will need to produce a full set of accounts for the beneficiaries showing the estate assets and liabilities, administration income and expenses and how the estate has been distributed.
If you are considering serving, or asking someone to serve, as the executor of an estate be sure you understand the duties and responsibilities of being an executor. An executor will probably work long, hard hours for at least a year getting an estate settled and could quite possibly be a very unpopular person with heirs.
If professionals are chosen as executors, they may be appointed as individually named persons or as a firm. Executors, like trustees, are in a fiduciary relationship so they cannot make a profit out of their office. They may only claim out of pocket expenses. Therefore a charging clause must be included, authorising them to charge for all work done by the executors or their firm in administering the estate.