The Ten Key Tasks for an Executor
Being an executor of a will can seem like a daunting prospect at what can already be a difficult and stressful time. Before you agree to becoming one, find out more about some of the key duties an executor is expected to carry out after a death.
What is an executor?
An executor is a nominated person who manages the estate of someone who has died. They are named in the will and look after the deceased’s money, property and possessions. They “execute” the will by carrying out the deceased’s wishes after they die.
There is often more than one executor, and, in many cases, family and/or friends will be chosen. People may also appoint professional executors (e.g. a solicitor). While there is no legal limit on how many executors for a will, the process can become complicated if too many are chosen.
Below, we will list some of the key tasks that will be required of you should you agree to becoming an executor.
1. Register the death
This isn’t something which always falls to the executor to do, but often happens when there is no one else who can. If necessary, an executor will need to register the death and notify the deceased’s GP.
It is wise to obtain several death certificates at this point, as it will be more expensive to request additional copies later and, as you’ll see on this list, you will need to send several death certificates to various people.
2. Get copies of the will
For obvious reasons, people often don’t talk about death, so you may not know exactly how the deceased wanted their estate to be distributed. This information will be outlined in their will, if they have one.
You will need to find out where the most up-to-date version of their will is and get an original copy. Any other executors named in the will must also confirm they are happy for you to have a copy.
Making copies of the will is always advisable for the co-executors and other beneficiaries. This also means you can keep the original document in a safe place. You must not tamper with the original, even reshuffling the order or adding staples to the document. If the executor is deemed to have tampered with the will it is more likely that the beneficiaries will contest it.
3. Arrange the funeral
Executors are usually responsible for arranging the funeral of the deceased. Many people leave instructions in their will for how they want their funeral to be carried out. This could include whether they want to be cremated, where they want their ashes to be spread and the sort of wake they want.
Arranging the funeral can often be an overwhelming task. The executor is the individual in charge of arranging the funeral, but this does not mean smaller tasks cannot be delegated. Ask other family members or friends to help if need be.
There may also be a pre-paid funeral plan which allows people to help pay towards a funeral in advance of their death. This can often help to lessen the financial burden and reduces the stress at an already difficult time. If this is the case, contact the funeral plan provider as soon as possible.
4. Value the estate
It is the duty of the executor to value the estate of the deceased. Their estate includes:
- Bank Accounts
- Stocks & Shares
- Valuables (such as jewellery, art)
- Debt (including credit cards, mortgages, equity release)
It is worth noting that the estate may also include assets that are jointly held with others.
For property and land, it is advisable to get a professional valuation.
5. Apply for probate
Probate is the legal process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died. To begin with, you will need to obtain a Grant of Representation. This is a document obtained from the court to prove the legal authority of the person entrusted to deal with a deceased person's estate.
It is worth noting that you must pay any owed Inheritance Tax due before applying for the grant of probate.
6. Distribute the estate
This is one of the largest responsibilities for an executor. In a will, specific items of personal property will be given (or “bequeathed”) to particular people. As an executor, it will be your duty to ensure these items are given to the correct individuals.
If there are any beneficiaries that are under 18, you will need to ensure that there are at least two trustees.
Executors should also ask each beneficiary to sign a receipt for the gifts that they receive. This will act as proof of distribution. This receipt should record the gift, the date the distribution was made, the full name of the beneficiary, and the name of the executor.
7. Take responsibility for property and post
Entering into the property of the deceased so soon after their death can often be a strange task, but it is an important responsibility. If the property is unoccupied, it is best to secure it and inform the home insurers as soon as you can.
8. Sort out finances
Death certificates will need to be sent to asset holders such as, banks, building societies and insurance companies. Ensure that any direct debits are cancelled and find out the account balances and/or investment values on the date of the death.
You will also need to stop the payment of any salary, pension and/or state benefits.
You will have to pay any outstanding tax, debt and/or bills before you distribute the estate.
9. Pay Inheritance Tax
The current threshold for Inheritance Tax is £325,000. This means that if the estate is worth less than this, no tax is owed. As the executor, you will need to estimate the value of the estate and report this to the government, whether there is Inheritance Tax to pay or not.
If, however, the estate is worth more than £325,000, the estate will be charged anything above the threshold at a rate of 40%. For example, if the estate is worth £500,000 the inheritance tax charged will be 40% of £175,000 (£500,000 minus £325,000).
If a house is left to the children or grandchildren of the deceased, the tax-free allowance on its value increases to £475,000.
10. Sort any other existing assets
Existing assets that haven’t been dealt with may include joint bank accounts, jointly owned property, pension schemes and life insurance policies.
Joint bank accounts will automatically transfer to the surviving joint owner. Executors should still send a death certificate to the bank so they can update their records in these cases.
If property is involved with “beneficial joint tenants” the deceased’s share will also automatically pass onto the surviving joint owner. The deceased’s share in that property will be included when calculating the value of the estate for inheritance tax purposes.
You will also be responsible for contacting the pension provider. You will need to supply a death certificate and ask whether there are death benefits available, and whether there is a pension set up for spouse or children. If the pension is to be paid directly to an individual it will form part of the estate.
How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?
At Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors, we have a team of dedicated probate solicitors who are ready to help you resolve your query or issue relating to this area of the law as quickly and effectively as possible, both for executors and for those writing or updating their wills.
If you need assistance with obtaining a grant of probate or letter of administration, or simply want advice on dealing with the Probate Registry, our wills, trusts and probate solicitors have a wealth of experience. We can help you through what can be a difficult time, dealing with estate and trust property and complex estates.
Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts
To speak to a wills and probate solicitor for advice, contact Percy Hughes & Roberts for a no-obligation phone consultation today. We provide ourselves on offering expert advice that's easy to understand, and we will be with you through every step of the legal process.