Can an Executor of an Estate Act Alone?

24 June 2019

If an Executor has been named as the sole Executor in the Will, then they can act alone. If the Will has appointed one or more joint Executors, then these Executors will need to act together unless the other Executor(s) renounce from their role or have power reserved to them.

What Does an Executor Do?

When someone makes a Will, they can appoint one or more people to act as the Executor of their Estate. The Executor will be responsible for administering the Estate after the person dies.

The Executor's duties include valuing the Estate, settling any outstanding debts the deceased had at the time of their death, selling or transferring their assets, calculating and paying any Inheritance Tax due from the Estate and distributing what's left to the beneficiaries.

There is a significant amount of legal, tax and administrative work involved in this process, so some Executors may want to share this work with someone else. On the other hand, others may want to keep ownership of the Estate administration and carry out all of the work alone.

Many of the tasks involved in Probate can only be carried out by the named Executor, so friends and family will not be able to step in and help out informally.

Acting Alone as a Sole Executor

If the Will names just one Executor to act alone, then they will be responsible for carrying out this work by themselves. This is called a Sole Executor.

The Will might name a replacement Executor or Executors, to be appointed in the event that the first Executor is unable or unwilling to act. Assuming the first Executor does choose to act, then they will be acting alone.

In the event that the first Executor doesn't want to act, they can renounce Probate and the replacement Executor or Executors can act. An Executor renounces Probate when they permanently give up the role and responsibilities of an Executor and they must sign a form to this effect.

Acting Together as Joint Executors

If the Will names two or more Executors to act together, and they both choose to take on the role, then they will both need to be involved in the Estate administration. These are called Joint Executors.

Joint Executors have equal responsibility for the Estate administration. They will apply for the Grant of Probate together and will both need to be involved in Probate work such as the sale of the property or the transfer of assets.

Can Joint Executors Act Alone?

The only circumstances in which jointly appointed Executors can act alone is if the other Executor(s) formally step down from their role. There are two ways in which they can do this.

One option is for them to renounce as Executor (as mentioned above). The other option is for the Executor who doesn't want to act to have Power Reserved to them. This means that they are stepping aside and allowing the other Executor to carry out the Estate administration without them, but they can apply to become involved at a later date if they wish.

Getting Help as a Sole Executor

If you have been appointed as a sole Executor, but you don't think you can take on the task alone, it is possible for you to instruct a Probate Specialist to help you.

With our Probate Complete Service, our Probate Specialists can take responsibility for the legal, tax and administrative work on your behalf.

This includes:

  • locating and contacting the beneficiaries
  • valuing the Estate
  • liaising with HM Revenue & Customs
  • calculating and paying Inheritance Tax
  • selling or transferring assets including any property
  • contacting creditors and settling liabilities
  • distributing the Estate in line with the terms of the Will

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