Wills & Probate | What are the duties of an executor of a Will?
Carrying out a person's last wishes is not as simple as reading the Will and simply giving out the items listed. That is why in the Will there are nominations for an executor for the estate to guide the estate through the legal process and distribute all the assets.
When a person dies, he or she is no longer legally allowed to own any property. Everything from little things of value to art, stocks and bonds, real estate, businesses, and even animals must be transferred to someone. In a Will people typically choose to leave their assets to their family, friends, charity, or a combination of the above.
Being named as an executor/ executrix of a Will means you are to act for the deceased and you are responsible for executing the provisions set forth in the Will. You are legally responsible for dealing with the deceased’s estate (i.e. their assets and liabilities) and carrying out the wishes detailed in the Will.
The process is complex, complete with its own jargon. If you make a mistake, you could end up owing money yourself, personally. It is therefore important to act carefully and keep detailed accounts of your movements.
What are the first steps?
Well, before you go any further… make sure you have registered the death (within 5 days, including weekends and bank holidays, in England and Wales). You will then receive the death certificate.
You will then need to find the Will itself, whilst also making sure it is the last Will the deceased made.
The Will may also set out the deceased’s funeral wishes, i.e. whether they wish to be buried or cremated, so it is important to find out if the deceased had any particular wishes before arranging the funeral – although please note that funeral wishes in a Will are not legally binding.
Finally, you will also need to tell important organisations, particularly the government, that the person has died. You may also want to inform places of work, landlords, credit card holders and so on.
What are the assets and liabilities?
Well, once you have dealt with the above, you need to work out how much the deceased’s estate actually is. This will then help work out what amount of tax is owed.
The assets will include, property, bank accounts, pensions, possessions, credit cards etc.
Once that has been identified, you will then be able to calculate the inheritance tax, although it is strongly advised that legal advice is taken to ensure that the correct figure has been calculated.
Inheritance tax must be paid no later than 6 months from the end of the month in which the deceased died, otherwise interest on the unpaid tax will be charged.
You will thereafter need to apply for a Grant of Probate, along with submitting the relevant IHT forms.
The application for Grant of Probate can be made either online or by post, depending on the deceased’s circumstances, which will not be discussed here.
Finalising the estate
Finally, and once the Grant of Probate has been received, you can then start collecting the money and property from the estate.
You must ensure that all liabilities are paid before distributing the estate, such as funeral expenses, loans, credit cards etc.
The Executor will need to prepare the final estate accounts which provide a summary of all of the assets, all of the liabilities, any income received during the administration period, and how the estate has been distributed.
This can be quite a difficult and lengthy process, especially given the current delays with third party companies due to the pandemic.
An estate cannot be rushed and you must ensure that everything takes place in the correct order, that you locate all assets and creditors, the correct amount of IHT is paid, and, finally, that the estate is distributed accordingly.
The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute professional advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal, accountancy or financial advice as appropriate on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor, Accountant or Financial Advisor/Mortgage Broker before you embark on any course of action.
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