Executor of a Will – Duties and Responsibilities

16 February 2018

When someone dies, it is necessary to wind up their affairs, settle outstanding debts and distribute their Estate to those entitled to inherit it. If the person has left a Will then this should name an Executor (or Executors), which is the person (or people) responsible for carrying out this task.

The role of Executor is a complicated one which comes with a significant amount of responsibility. In England and Wales, the Executor can be held financially liable for any errors that have been made during the administration of an Estate, so it’s absolutely crucial to get it right.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (not VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.

We can pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare Funeral when you use our Probate Complete Service, and the Estate has sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.

How Long Does it Take to Administer an Estate?

The length of time that it takes to administer an Estate will vary depending on the size and complexity of the Estate, as well as how much time the Executor is able to commit to it and their proficiency in carrying out their duties. In many cases it can take up to a year, but it could take longer.

There is a lot of complex tax, legal and administrative work involved in the administration of an Estate, so it’s important to be aware of what the Executor role entails right from the outset.

Legal Duties

As the Executor of a Will you will be required to apply for the Grant of Probate. The Grant of Probate will provide you with legal authority to deal with banks, utility companies, HM Revenue & Customs and other institutions on behalf of the Estate. 

You will also need to gather together all information regarding the Estate. This will include any assets, property or bank accounts belonging to the deceased person as well as any outstanding debts that the person had (in the form of mortgages, loans, credit cards or other liabilities). If any assets or debts are missed at this stage then this can cause complications later on in the process.

Tax Duties

As Executor you will need to acertain the total value of the Estate and calculate whether any Inheritance Tax will be payable (and how much if so). Calculating Inheritance Tax can be complicated and consideration must be given to a variety of factors, for example, any unused tax-free allowances that can be transferred from one spouse to the other, exempt beneficiaries and gifts.

Once you have calculated what (if any) Inheritance Tax is due, you will then need to obtain and complete the relevant Inheritance Tax forms before submitting these to HMRC.

When you apply for the Grant of Probate you will need to prove that you have either paid any Inheritance Tax that is due, or that there is no Inheritance Tax to be paid.

It will also be your responsibility to complete any relevant Income Tax returns for the Estate. If there is any outstanding tax owed then you will need to make arrangements for this to be paid.

Estate Administration Duties

As Executor, you need to notify all relevant organisations of the person’s death, such as HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions, the local Council and any utilities companies, settling any outstanding bills that the person had on their account.

You will be responsible for locating any unclaimed or missing assets, preparing and distributing the Estate accounts to the relevant parties and then correctly distributing the remaining Estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will. 

Do I Have to Accept the Role of Executor?

The role of Executor can be a cause of significant stress at a time of grief. Many people can feel overwhelmed by the task or ill-equipped to carry out the duties of Executor.

It’s important to know that in most cases you are not legally obliged to accept the role if you don’t want to. If you wish to step down from the role, then providing there is nothing in the Will that prohibits this and you haven’t yet started work on the Estate, you can do so by signing a document called Renunciation which essentially means that you are resigning from the role.

Co-op Legal Services can take over the administration of the Estate on your behalf and deal with the legal, tax and administrative aspects of the Estate. This would enable you to shed the added stress and responsibility that comes with being an Executor and take the weight off your shoulders.

If you need help with probate, contact us:

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