Being appointed as an executor is an important role, with a great deal of work and responsibility. Very few people get a chance to practice this.
This brief guide is designed to help you to deal with the many different tasks of an executor. We have, over the years, helped hundreds of executors to fill in the forms and close estates of every size and complexity. We always recommend that legal advice be sought from a specialist probate solicitor.
Your duties as an executor
Your duties as an executor are essentially to collect and protect the assets of the deceased and pay off any debts of the estate. This includes dealing with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for Inheritance Tax and distributing the remaining assets, according to the will, to the appropriate beneficiaries. This sounds easy, but will take longer than might be thought! Most estates can be closed in about six months, however a year is not unusual.
If there is a will, you will be the personal representative. If not, then you will be the administrator (special rules apply in such cases, known as the rules of intestacy).
It is possible and often wise to seek assistance from a solicitor or probate specialist. An executor can also pass the whole of their responsibility to a law firm. To help reduce costs it is possible to appoint a solicitor, but then do much of the leg work yourself. At the very least, an executor will end up signing a lot of forms and letters.
Note that an executor can claim for reasonable expenses from the estate for the work involved in administration.
Stages in dealing with an estate
When the death is registered, be sure to obtain a number of copies of the death certificate.