Executor and administrator duties explained

In England and Wales an Executor, Personal Representative or Administrator can be held financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of duty, even if a mistake is made in good faith.

What's the difference between an Executor, a Personal Representative and an Administrator?

If a valid Will is in place a Personal Representative is known as an Executor. If there is no Will then the Personal Representative is known as an Administrator.

A Personal Representative is the person responsible for dealing with the deceased’s assets. These assets, including property and financial investments are collectively known as the Estate. The Personal Representative has the legal authority and responsibility to administer the Estate and may ultimately be held accountable for any mistakes made.

See Estate Administrator Held Liable for £340,000 Inheritance Tax Bill.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting the Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excluding VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.*

*We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate has sufficient financial assets which can be sold in due course.

Have you been named as executor?

If the person who died left a will, this will name one or more people as executor.

If there isn't a will, the position of administrator is determined by inheritance rules called the rules of intestacy. These rules also determine how the estate will be distributed.

Executor duties and responsibilities explained

Being named as executor in a will can bring with it complicated, difficult and time-consuming duties which can take up to a year or more to complete.

It is crucial to get everything right because the executor is legally responsible for administering the estate in accordance with the terms of the will and the law. An executor is responsible for everything they do or fail to do when administering the estate.

Acting as the executor of a will can be a very daunting prospect because of the amount of legal, tax and administrative responsibilities. An executor's responsibilities last for the duration of the administration of the estate and can also carry afetrwards if there are trusts.

Duties of the executor

Legal responsibilities

Tax responsibilities

  • completing and submitting the Inheritance Tax (IHT) return and paying any Inheritance Tax owed

  • completing the relevant Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax returns and paying any outstanding tax owed

Estate administration responsibilities

  • notifying and corresponding with all relevant organisations in order to cash or transfer the deceased’s assets and pay the debts and liabilities of the estate
  • searching for unclaimed or missing assets
  • preparing and distributing estate accounts
  • correctly distributing the estate to the beneficiaries

If you find yourself in this situation and you are feeling overwhelmed, we can help. Our fully trained probate specialists will work alongside our probate solicitors and lawyers to support you, and our probate advisory team offer free initial advice and guidance on executor duties and responsibilities.

How long do the executor's duties take?

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.

Personal representative responsibilities explained

A personal representative can be held personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty, even if the mistake was made in good faith; such as

  • failure to pay the debts and liabilities of the deceased
  • failure to pay all Inheritance Tax, Income Tax & Capital Gains Tax due.
  • failure to distribute funds to an individual who is successful in their claim against the estate
  • failure to identify, and correctly distribute funds to the beneficiaries; including any missing beneficiaries or missing assets

Disappointed family members or dependants have up to 6 months to make a claim after the Grant of Representation has been issued, while the deceased’s creditors can potentially make a claim against the personal representative for up to 12 years after the death.

If someone has died and you need help with probate, contact us:

Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Estate administration in England and Wales is not a reserved legal activity. This means that unregulated providers can offer estate administration services regardless of whether they are insured, experienced or qualified to provide a full service.

Co-op Legal Services is a trading name for Co-operative Legal Services Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, giving you peace of mind that your estate administration affairs are being dealt with by a regulated organisation and a brand you know and trust.

Co-op Legal Services carries insurance covering all of our work plus we have protection of client funds under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Our team of probate solicitors and specialists includes many members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). All STEP members are subject to an extensive code of professional conduct, requiring them at all times to act with integrity and in a manner that inspires the confidence, respect and trust of their clients and of the wider community.

Please note that our probate solicitors and probate consultants are available in England and Wales only for customers using our probate and estate administration service. If you don't know if probate is required, we can tell you.