What do I have to do as an executor of an estate?
I have been appointed as an Executor or Administrator in a loved one’s estate. What does this mean and what do I have to do next?
Role of an Executor
The appointment of an Executor in a Will should not be taken lightly. The role may be a demanding and complex one. It can be hard to understand what the role means for you and what you need to do to start the process.
If you are faced with this task you should consider your options carefully. The various options will very much depend on the complexity of the estate of your loved one (this being the assets they have left behind) and the number or type of beneficiaries you will have to deal with as part of the estate administration.
Your role as an Executor will begin by establishing the terms of the Will (if any) and the value of the estate as at the time of death. This will involve communicating with the various asset holders. You may also need to seek advice from a professional as to the tax position of the deceased. It follows that the more assets left behind, the more work will be involved at this stage, which will be time consuming. At a time when you are grieving this may form a welcome distraction however it can place further stress on an already fragile situation.
It is worth noting that the clock begins to tick from the date of death. For instance, any Inheritance Tax (IHT) that is due has to be paid within 6 months of the death. This may sound like a long time however if you are having to deal with a large number of asset holders or banks you will find this deadline will approach fast. There is the option to delay the payment of IHT, however this will attract interest which may be unacceptable to beneficiaries who will receive a smaller share of the estate as a result.
It is important to understand how the deceased held the assets or whether any assets were held jointly with other people. Certain assets will need to be professionally valued and again you will be in charge of arranging sufficient valuations. This may involve obtaining a range of valuations from experts to obtain an average for instance.
You will also be responsible for dealing with the deceased’s post and any property. This may involve changing the locks of an unoccupied property and arranging for the building insurance to be updated. You may need to arrange for household items to be valued and sold, or the property to be cleared.
You have a duty as Executor to ensure that the value of the estate is maintained for the beneficiaries. This may involve securing a property or taking advice about the investments of assets. You may be called upon to explain how you ensured this and how you are fulfilling your duties, particularly if any of the beneficiaries of the estate include a charity.
As part of the estate administration you will also be required to report to HMRC and the Probate Registry regarding the IHT position of the deceased. If any IHT is due, lengthy tax forms will have to be completed and signed by you as Executor. The completion and signing of these forms places the legal liability on you for any mis-reporting which can in some cases be grounds for criminal prosecution. The navigation of these forms can be confusing and may lead to unintentional mistakes.
Grant of Probate
Once you have valued the estate and reported it to the relevant authorities, an application for a Grant of Probate can be made. Once the Grant has been issued you can release the estate assets, pay any debts and then distribute the estate. Again, this process can be time consuming and complex.
Overall, as an Executor you can be personally liable for a breach of the wide-ranging duties you owe to the reporting authorities and the beneficiaries, even if any mistake was made in good faith. This may include a failure to pay any debts or failing to correctly identify and distribute assets of the estate.
The Probate Team here at David Gray Solicitors can assist with your loved one’s estate and take the stress away. We can take over the administration of the estate as a whole or we can help with certain parts. We can ensure that the complex duties bestowed upon you by your loved one are not broken and the role they have entrusted you with is carried out correctly. Our team has a wealth of experience which will give you the reassurance that the estate administration will be carried out seamlessly and as quickly as possible. We are also able to offer fixed fee packages for all types of probate work to give you the peace of mind that your loved one’s estate will not be consumed by legal fees.
Call us now on 0191 232 9547 or email Hayley.Baker@davidgray.co.uk to obtain more information or simply to have a chat with one of our probate solicitors. We can provide you with a bespoke quote and talk you through the next steps.