Lifebuoy for executors - how to fulfil the role of an executor

What is an executor?

The role of an executor is incredibly important. An executor is someone named in the Will, who takes responsibility for sorting out the estate of the person who has died and carrying out the provisions of the Will.  The deceased might have chosen a family member, a friend or even a professional such as a solicitor.  You can still act as an executor even if you stand to inherit under the Will.

What does the role of executor include?

The role of an executor is to ensure that the deceased’s estate is administered and distributed correctly.  How you go about fulfilling your duties will vary depending on the terms of the Will and the size of the estate.  Common executor tasks include:

  • Securing all of the deceased’s assets after their death
  • Notifying third parties of the death, in particular assets holders, utility providers, government bodies and creditors
  • Identifying and valuing the deceased’s assets and liabilities
  • Applying to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Probate
  • Completing an Inheritance Tax Return and paying any tax due
  • Collecting in the assets or their sale value
  • Paying off any debts and liabilities
  • Calculating and paying any Income or Capital Gains Tax due during the estate administration
  • Distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will

How must joint executors act?

If there is more than one executor named, they will share the responsibility and must make all decisions concerning the estate jointly.   If disagreements arise and an agreement cannot be reached, in certain circumstances it is possible for one executor to apply to the court to remove the other.

Who is the executor when there is no Will?

If there is no Will, the rules of intestacy establish who is entitled to take out the Grant of Probate.  They are known as administrators and are officially appointed by the court. The role of an executor is similar to that of an administrator; however, after sorting out the deceased’s affairs an administrator must distribute the estate in accordance with the intestacy rules as there is no Will to follow.

The term personal representatives includes both executors and administrators.

Can an executor claim expenses?

You will be not automatically be paid for the time spent carrying out the executor’s duties and responsibilities, although the deceased may have left you a gift.  You are entitled to claim back out of pocket expenses.

Can I be held personally liable as an executor?

As an executor if you fail to pay an unknown creditor or a beneficiary you are at risk of being held personally liable to that person.  However, there are legal methods available to protect yourself from personal liability and if you are unfamiliar with the process of estate administration, you can seek professional support.

What happens if an executor dies?

If an executor has died before the deceased, there may be surviving co-executors or replacement executors named in the Will who can act.  If there are no other named executors in the Will, the rules of intestacy will determine who can act as an administrator.

If a sole executor dies having taken out the Grant of Probate but the estate administration is incomplete, we recommend seeking professional advice on next steps.

Can an executor refuse to act?

Being named as an executor does not mean you have to act.  One option is to formally renounce the appointment entirely, which means giving up any right to act as an executor in the estate now or in the future.  You can only do this if you have not taken any steps to administer the estate already.

If there are other executors who are willing to act, you can choose instead to have “power reserved to you” on the Grant of Probate.  This allows the other executors to move forward with administering the estate but gives you the flexibility to later join the process if necessary.

What if the Will appoints the deceased’s former spouse as executor?

If the Will appoints the deceased’s former spouse as executor, then the Will takes effect as if the former spouse or civil partner had died on the date the marriage or civil partnership was dissolved or annulled. If there are substitute appointments, the substitute executors can administer the estate.

Can an executor appoint a solicitor to help them with Probate?

Yes.  A probate solicitor, like Timbrell Law, can assist you with most if not all of your obligations in administering the estate.  They can complete the entire estate administration on your behalf, including dealing with any trusts set up in the Will, reporting any income tax or capital gains tax liabilities which arise during the administration period and obtaining inheritance tax clearance.

What may seem straightforward at the outset may become a more complex probate matter as the deceased person’s assets and liabilities are investigated.  It is also worth considering the amount of time DIY probate and estate administration can take, as well as the emotional strain of dealing with the deceased’s assets yourself.

Where the deceased person’s estate contains overseas assets, trust interests, business or agricultural assets, if there is any foreign element or if it is suspected that a claim may be brought against the estate, professional advice should be sought at the outset.

If you do seek professional support, their reasonable fees can be paid out of the deceased’s estate.

Further Support

If you are looking for a Will without success, book at Probate Strategy Session with our probate solicitors who can offer support and guidance on your next steps.

Alternatively, please click here for our contact details or visit our Probate page to speak with a solicitor. We would be happy to help.

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