Being the executor of a will involves responsibilities and duties both immediately after a death and ongoing as you take over administering the deceased’s estate. Executors of a will responsibilities.
If you’re new to the role – or considering taking it on – the sheer number of tasks you need to manage can be overwhelming. So, let’s take a look.
Here is everything you need to know about where to start as the executor of a will:
What is an executor of a will?
The executor of a will is named within it. It is a special role, charging someone trusted by the deceased with dealing with their estate and ensuring the wishes contained in the will are carried out.
Being an executor is a very responsible role. It frequently involves managing various financial affairs and following through on the legal processes involved when someone dies.
Before an executor can carry out their role, they need to apply for legal permission to do so. This is called applying for probate and, when successful, is delivered in the form of a legal document called a Grant of Probate.
How many executors to a will are normally appointed?
Because of the vital nature of an executor’s job, it’s good practice for more than one to be appointed in a will. This covers situations when one executor sadly predeceases the subject of the will or can no longer fulfil their role for some other reason.
- One executor – is the minimum you can appoint and likely all you need if you are using a professional business.
- Two executors – the recommended amount if you are nominating close friends or family members.
- Four executors – is the maximum you can appoint.
How do you choose an executor of a will?
The role of an executor calls for someone you trust. It is also best assigned to someone with the dedication and disposition needed for searching through paperwork, filling in forms, and managing sometimes complicated finances.
For this reason, many people prefer to nominate a professional such as a solicitor to be the executor of their will. The downside of this is that a professional will expect payment whereas a friend or family member might not.
The advantage is that you are not requiring a friend or family member to manage complex administrative and financial tasks at the same time as handling their grief or leaving them open to the other challenges and responsibilities of an executor’s position.
What are an executor’s primary responsibilities?
An executor has a range of primary responsibilities, including but not limited to:
1) Registering the death, funeral arrangements, and locating the will
Registering a death needs to be done within 5 days in most of the UK or 8 days in Scotland. This is not necessarily the responsibility of the executor of the will. But it does need to be done as the executor will need multiple copies of the death certificate to complete their work.
The cost of the funeral is one of the few costs that can legally come from the deceased’s estate before probate is successfully applied for. The executor is responsible for this. But do be aware that if the estate cannot cover the cost then the person who made the funeral arrangements will be liable for the bill.
The most recent version of the will also needs to be located.
2) Paying Inheritance Tax
Though it can feel like the reverse of what should happen, Inheritance Tax (IHT) needs to be paid to HMRC before a Grant of Probate can successfully be applied for. Without probate, an executor cannot perform any of the other duties attached to their role.
Paying Inheritance Tax requires care – and often the hiring of independent valuers and surveyors – to locate and value the deceased’s entire estate:
- Valuing the deceased’s estate – including all assets (such as property or investments) and liabilities (things like debts they owe or bills they need to pay).
- Calculate exemptions and relief – working out exactly how much Inheritance Tax the deceased needs to pay.
- Paying IHT – the executor is responsible for ensuring the deceased’s estate pays the correct amount of IHT. This is the other cost that can legally come from the deceased’s estate before probate is granted.
3) Apply for a Grant of Probate
After Inheritance Tax has been paid, the executor can apply to the Probate Office for the Grant of Probate they need to complete their work. Without this, they do not have the legal authority to administer the estate.
4) Locating creditors and settling finances
Many people think first of distributing the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries as the main part of an executor’s role. Yet there is also the matter of creditors and debts to consider.
This might involve paying taxes, such as Capital Gains or Income Tax, and paying off any other debts the deceased might owe.
The executor also needs to take steps to make unknown creditors aware that they can claim against the estate (posting a notice in The Gazette is a traditional part of this) as the executor may be personally liable if creditors find out and try to claim later.
5) Keeping estate accounts and administration
The final stage is the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries named in the will or selling them as directed in the will.
The executor will need to keep detailed accounts and records throughout this process.
Does an executor get paid for carrying out their responsibilities?
The default is that an executor does not get paid for carrying out their duties. However, it is possible for a will to put aside some money or a portion of the estate for the executor for their hard work.
The only exception to this is a professional or business hired for their services as an executor. They will have what’s called a “charging clause” inserted into the will to ensure they will be paid for carrying out their responsibilities as executors of a will.
Want to discuss your duties as the executor of a will with a professional?
Solicitors Near Me can match you with the ideal legal expert for free and with no obligation. Get in touch to chat about your specific situation today.