If you’ve been named as an executor in someone’s Will, you might be wondering what an Executor does? What are the roles and responsibilities of an Executor? You might also have concerns about how you’re going to carry out your responsibilities, especially when you’re grieving.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide outlining the roles and responsibilities of an Executor. Here’s what you’ll find in this guide:
What is an Executor?
When somebody writes a Last Will and Testament, the Will Writer will ask them to name a single or multiple Executors. Executors are responsible for ensuring that the final wishes and details of a will are carried out.
What is the Role of an Executor?
As an executor your role is to administer the affairs and the estate of the deceased person. When a person dies everything they own becomes their ‘estate’. This can include:
- Money: Any cash, money in current accounts, bank accounts or building society accounts, shares, dividends, savings accounts, and any money paid out from a Life Insurance Policy.
- Owed money: The person may have money owed to them from cancelled policies or contracts
- Properties: Any properties they own or have part ownership of
- Personal possessions: Cars, jewellery, computers etc.
If the person who died owes money to other people, for example, on a credit card, for fuel, for rent or a mortgage, this comes out of the estate which is normally managed by the Executor.
When somebody dies they will normally leave their ‘estate’ to their friends or family or other named people known as beneficiaries. You will be responsible for ensuring that these named beneficiaries receive their share of the estate, once all debts have been settled.
What is Probate?
In some instances the executor may have to apply for special legal authority. This is called Probate. Probate gives you the authority to share out the estate belonging to the deceased, in accordance to the instructions contained within the will.
You will not need to apply for Probate if the person had joint ownership of bank accounts, properties, savings or if you are dealing with a small amount of money. Some banks and building societies will release small amounts of money once debts such as mortgages, and funerals have been paid. Policies differ between different organisations so it is best to check with the bank or building society.
If you’d like advice about applying for Probate then please contact us.
How Much is Probate and How Do I Apply?
If you are required to apply for Probate you can apply via the Gov.Uk website via your local Probate Registry. You will need multiple copies of the death certificate, the Will, an Inheritance Tax Form and the Probate fee. You will also need to sign a declaration of Truth.
The fee for applying for probate or letters of administration depends on the value of the estate. You won’t pay a fee if the value of the estate is less than £5,000. If the estate is valued at £5,000 or more the fee is £215. This is the same for both post and online applications.
If you’re on a low income or having financial problems you can apply to pay a reduced fee or not fee at all. Again, we can help you organise Probate. Please contact us if you think you will need to apply.
What are the Responsibilities of an Executor? Your Tasks.
One of the first things you may need to do as executor is register a person’s death. If this has already been done you will need a copy of the death certificate so that you can begin to organise and manage the instructions contained in the will. If the deceased organised their Will with us, you should contact us and we will issue you with a copy of the Will.
Alternatively, if you already have a copy of the Will you should still contact us so that we can update our records and remove any automatic payments that might exist for storing the Will.
Inorder to manage the estate of the deceased, you may need to apply for Probate. Once you have been granted Probate or letters of administration, you can begin to deal with the estate and share out the property.
You will need to arrange the funeral in accordance with any wishes specified in the Will. Other family members and non-executors may want to help with this. The deceased may have had a prepaid funeral plan so make sure you check because this will contain full funeral details and may mean that the funeral has been fully paid for.
If the deceased was our client we can check any policies they had for you. In the absence of any prepaid funeral plans you will be responsible for paying for the funeral service. However, this can be claimed back from the estate once Probate is granted. Alternatively, the bank may approve payment to cover the cost.
Value the Estate
You will need to obtain all paperwork relating to the deceased’s property to determine what they owned and owe. Look for insurance policies, utility bills and accounts, bank accounts, car log books, Life Insurance Policies, Title Deeds for property, mortgage statements, pensions etc.
Once you’ve determined how much they own and owe this will give you the value of their estate. At this point you may decide that you need to apply for Probate if the amount of the estate is large.
Contacting and Closing Accounts
Once you are granted Probate you will be able to begin the process of asking banks, insurance companies and mortgage providers to release the money belonging to the estate. It is a good idea to set up a separate account so that you can easily manage payments in and out.
Pay Debts and Inheritance Tax
As you begin contacting organisations to inform them of the death you will be issued with final statements which will specify any monies owed. You will need to pay these debts from the estate. Debts may include mortgage repayments, council tax, bills and income tax. You may therefore need to complete a tax return to establish how much tax is owed. Inheritance tax may also need to be paid.
Inheritance Tax is payable depending on how much the estate is worth. You will either need to pay it or prove that tax isn’t owed, before you apply for Probate. This can be a tricky situation because you might be expected to pay a large tax bill before any money from the estate can be released. However, the bank of the deceased may release money to cover the cost.
Pay the Beneficiaries
Once all debts and taxes have been paid and you’ve collected all money owned by the estate, you can begin dividing the estate between the specified beneficiaries of the will. This may include, properties, savings and possessions.
**Top Tip** Make sure you keep a robust record of what has been given out and when. Keep a spreadsheet of payments in and payments out.
Completion of Role
Once everything has been distributed ask all beneficiaries to sign and date your records that you have been keeping. Once this has been signed by all the beneficiaries you can close down any associated accounts.
What to Expect as An Executor?
Being an Executor of an Will is a huge responsibility and requires a lot of organisation and time. In some cases it may also require a lot of expense. (Although in most cases you can claim this back from the estate). Being an Executor is not just simply a case of reading a Will. You’ll be responsible for acting on behalf of the deceased and overseeing the management of their entire estate.
Large estates and complex Wills can be a headache for executors. You may be required to work cooperatively with other named executors and encounter disputes with beneficiaries.
Getting Professional Help
If you have been named as an Executor, the person that named you obviously thought you were up to the task. Follow our guide above to make sure that you have covered all areas and tasks. Although your duties can be confusing, time consuming and messy, if you’re organised and committed you should be able to execute your duties without too much hassle.
At Simple Will we are here to help however we can. If you’re not sure of your next steps, need help releasing money from an estate or help with applying for Probate, then please do get in touch. We can help you draw up a plan of action and support you with any legal matters.