Given the increase in Wills, there has been a rise in the number of people appointed as Executors. However, do you know what being an Executor entails? Do you know what rights and responsibilities come alongside accepting Executorship? An Executor is responsible for the management of the deceased’s estate and this is a role that comes with the following responsibilities and duties:
An Executor must first identify all the assets in the deceased’s estate, and this includes ascertaining details of all bank accounts, pension arrangements and property ownership. An Executor has a duty to contact all asset holders to ascertain the value of the assets at the date of death.
As well as identifying the deceased’s assets, an Executor is also responsible for identifying any outstanding debts or liabilities such as overdrafts, credit cards, or loans. It is advisable to place a notice in The Gazette to notify any potential creditors that they can claim against the estate to reclaim any money owed to them. It is important to note that if a creditor is not paid before distributing the estate, an Executor may later become liable to pay the debts from his/her own pocket!
The next step is to pay Inheritance Tax. This includes assessing the value of the estate, completing the relevant forms, liaising with HMRC and paying any tax due before the deadline. An Executor should determine if there were any taxable gifts made during the deceased’s lifetime and must consider whether any exemptions or reliefs apply. In some cases, other tax such as Income or Capital Gains Tax may also be payable.
An Executor can then apply for the Grant of Probate which is the legal document that provides authority to deal with and distribute the deceased’s estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.
Once the Grant of Probate has been obtained, the Executor can ‘execute’ the Will by carrying out the deceased’s wishes in accordance with the Will or in the absence of a Will, the laws of Intestacy. If there are Beneficiaries aged under 18, then a Trust with 2 adult Trustees will need to be created; again, the Executor must effectively identify and deal with such additional matters.
The Executor has a duty to find and contact all the named Beneficiaries and notify them of their entitlement under the Will. In some cases, an Executor may initially struggle locating the Beneficiaries, however the Executor would be expected to make reasonable efforts to determine the whereabouts of all named Beneficiaries.
Challenges to the Will:
If there are any concerns about the validity of the Will or if the deceased did not leave suitable provision for a close relative in their Will, then there is the possibility that the Will could be challenged or a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 may be made against the estate. While such claims are rare, the Executor will have a duty to the estate in any such legal proceedings.
Acting as an Executor can be an arduous task and is one that comes with personal responsibility. An Executor may be held legally and personally liable for any mistakes made during the administration of the estate, whether intentional or negligent. Therefore, it is recommended to seek independent legal advice to ensure that the estate is administered in accordance with the wishes of the deceased and the law.
At Deo Volente Solicitors, we understand that dealing with the estate of a deceased can be a difficult and daunting task during what is already an emotional and testing time. Our Private Client team has a wealth of experience in dealing with the administration of estates ranging from small estates to large taxable estates. If you have recently been appointed as an Executor or would like some assistance regarding the administration of an estate of a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Private Client Team by phone on 01234 350244. In times of bereavement, we pride ourselves on being able to offer a supportive and helpful Probate service to clients.