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 you have been asked to be an Executor, you will be named as such in the deceased’s Will. Where there is no Will, the position of Administrator is determined in accordance with a strict legal order of priority, commonly referred to as the Rules of Intestacy. The Rules of Intestacy also set out 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 often take up to a year to complete.

It is crucial to get everything right because the Executor is legally responsible for administering the Estate in accordance with both the terms of the Will, and the law. An Executor is responsible for everything they do or fail to do, in respect of the Estate.

Acting as the Executor of a Will can be a very daunting prospect because the role carries with it a considerable amount legal, tax and administrative responsibilities. An Executor's responsibilities last for the duration of the administration of the Estate and can also carry on into any ongoing Trust.

Executor duties include

Legal responsibilities

  • going to Court and applying for the Grant of Representation, which is the confirmation of legal authority to administer the Estate. If this is done by the named Executor in the Will, this is called the Grant of Probate; if there is no valid Will, this is called Letters of Administration

  • identifying and dealing with any valid claims against the Estate

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 to relevant parties
  • correctly distributing the residue of the Estate to the beneficiaries

If you find yourself in this situation and you are feeling overwhelmed, please don't worry because we may be able to take on the role of Executor for you. Our fully trained Probate Specialists, work alongside our Probate Solicitors and Lawyers, and our Probate Advisory team offer free initial advice and guidance on Executor duties and responsibilities.

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 those initially not known about

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 local 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.