Responsibilities of Executors

What must be done

Where a Will has been made, the executors named in the will are the Personal Representatives (PRs) of the estate and are responsible for its management and administration. If no valid Will exists and therefore there is no executor of the Will, the PR will be the next of kin of the deceased, and will be referred to as the administrator(s). The administrator(s) and executor(s) have a myriad of legal, tax and administrative responsibilities.

Legal

  • Checking the validity of the Will
  • Applying for a Grant of Representation
  • Identifying and managing claims against the estate
  • Dealing with any requests from beneficiaries to modify their share of the estate (they can refuse or may be able to alter it)
  • Setting up and managing trusts

Tax

  • Calculating the amount of inheritance tax due, if any
  • Completing Inheritance Tax (IHT) forms (necessary even if the estate is exempt)
  • Obtaining confirmation from HM Revenue and Customs that the IHT payment has been received, or that no IHT is to be paid
  • Effecting any corrections to the IHT amount, which may arise as assets change in value in the time it takes to complete the administration of the estate
  • >Preparing the Income Tax return from 6th April until day of death, along with any other year's taxes still outstanding, and paying these taxes
  • Paying any Capital Gains Tax due
  • Safeguarding any documents required to pass on unused inheritance tax allowance to the surviving spouse, if there is one

Administration

  • Ascertaining all the assets and liabilities of the estate
  • Locating unidentified assets and missing beneficiaries
  • Selling or transferring any property should it be required
  • Transferring any jointly held assets to the survivor
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries
  • Establishing trusts to safeguard the inheritance of any beneficiaries under the age of 18

The role of the PRs brings much responsibility, and they can be held financially responsible for any loss caused by a failure to satisfactorily carry out their duties as executor of a will.

Such potential failings include:

  • Failure to pay the debts and liabilities of the deceased
  • Failure to settle the tax affairs of the deceased (Inheritance Tax, Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax)
  • Failure to deal with any claims against the estate
  • Failure to identify and correctly distribute assets to the beneficiaries

Bear in mind, however, that it is not compulsory to take up these sometimes onerous duties if you are the PR of an estate. As long as you have not done any administration of the estate at all, you can renounce your role as Executor. Someone else, including a legal professional or organisation could then be elected to carry out the administration of the estate. 

If you don't want someone to take over the administration of the estate, but simply want some legal advice now and then on the more complicated topics, you might consider a service such as Instant Law Line, which offers legal advice over the telephone from just £7.99 per month. It's the perfect solution if you just need some legal answers without dragging a solicitor in for the long haul.

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