The Role of an Executor

An executor(s) is the individual or group of individuals who are charged with administering estate distribution under the terms of a will. Up to four may be appointed. The tasks associated with this function may be onerous, it is for this reason that one benefiting from the will (and so interested in its taking effect) is often appointed to the role.

The responsibilities are broad and the summary below should be viewed as neither chronologically strict nor technically exhaustive.

Assume the role of executor

As an executor you must first acquire the powers necessary to begin work, obtaining a grant of probate from the courts (unless the estate is very small in which case this may be dispensed with).

In practice, you should register the death, obtain a certificate and locate the most recent version of the will.

The person who has passed may have left notification of the will’s location. If not, search the National Will Register. NB. you are advised to use copies of the will wherever possible as damage to the original may result in its rejection by the courts.

You must then value the estate including all property and debts. Where appropriate professional valuations should be obtained.

An application for a grant of probate can then be made. This is performed by completing form PA1 and appropriate inheritance tax (IHT) documentation. You must send these forms, together with the original will (plus three copies of it), an official death certificate copy and a fee (currently around £200) to the local probate office.

IHT MUST THEN BE PAID! It is noteworthy that this is required prior to distribution of the estate.

A grant of probate will then be dispatched to you. Make several copies as these will be required when engaging asset holders.


Arrange the funeral

Check the will for any funeral wishes, these are not legally binding, though should be respected. Find out if a funeral plan has been put in place and contact the provider immediately, since this may provide finance for the event.

Funerals are viewed as an expense of death, with proper documentation i.e. an invoice from a funeral director, the bank of the deceased will issue a cheque to settle these costs.

Notify family and friends of the time and date of the funeral, consider advertising in local press.


Secure Assets and Identify Beneficiaries

In order to ultimately distribute assets, you’ll need to identify and engage: debtors, creditors and beneficiaries.

Sending an original death certificate to all asset holders e.g. banks, you can request cancellation of any active charges (e.g. direct debits) and access to the assets. Likewise, cessation of salaries and pensions should be sought.

Enquire of creditors as to outstanding debts, including HMRC. Place statutory advertisements in publications such as the London Gazette (these must be allowed to run for two months). Debts must be settled prior to distribution, and clearance from HMRC to proceed, obtained.


Distribute the estate

Before beginning distribution draw up comprehensive accounts for the estate and maintained them throughout the process. Interrogate the insolvency register to identify any beneficiary in bankruptcy (and so potentially unentitled to benefit from the estate).

With respect to any trust or minor beneficiary, ensure at least two trustees are appointed.

You should wait at least 6 months prior to distribution to allow for any claim against the estate. Distribution may then proceed. Provide tax forms to all beneficiaries (R185) and leep records of your work/expenses since the latter may be reimbursed by the estate.

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