11 January 2024

Best practice when acting as an executor

By James Palmer, Associate Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

When someone is appointed to act as an executor of another person’s estate, they are legally responsible for carrying out the instructions in a person’s will. Certain tasks including arranging the funeral, and registering the death, are often carried out by a family member (who may or may not be the person who has been appointed as the executor).

Some of the key duties of an executor, may include:

  • Registering the death – to obtain the death certificate(s) and to enable the funeral to take place
  • Arranging the funeral
  • Locating and protecting the will
  • Locating and protecting the estate assets and property
  • Contacting all those with which the deceased had assets or owed money; including banks and investment organisations – for money held or money owed
  • Applying for a Grant of Probate (where relevant)
  • Calculating and paying Inheritance Tax (where relevant)
  • Finalising the income tax
  • Gathering in or transferring all assets, including any property
  • Paying any liabilities
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries

Some estates are more complex than others; however, in many cases, the role of an executor is often an onerous and technical one. This is particularly so because of the sadness and heightened emotions of having lost a loved one.

Executors often seek the help of legal professionals. This can include a consultation in the early days. The benefits include fully understanding the role and duties so that they know exactly what needs to be done to administer the estate. It is worthwhile to take the time to receive such advice, to relieve the executor of worry and uncertainty in this increasingly complex role.

Alternatively, executors can also instruct a solicitor to assist in a more involved way. Often this relates to either of the following:

1. Certain elements of the probate process and estate administration: including obtaining the Grant of Probate. A Grant of Probate is a court document which confirms the authority of the executor to deal with the assets in an estate. To obtain it, an application is made to the Probate Registry. An executor may also seek legal advice on other aspects such as inheritance tax, capital gains tax, and other taxes.

2. Full Administration of the Estate: another option is that the executor(s) instruct a solicitor to deal with the full administration of the estate. This means that a solicitor will pick everything up for you, and deal with all the administration of the estate.

Accepting the appointment as an executor is a precise legal role. An executor must protect the estate assets, and account accurately to the beneficiaries for their entitlement. If an executor does not fulfil that duty properly, they are personally responsible. An executor is not personally liable for any debts of the estate; however, there are some exceptions, and taking on the role comes with risks.

As you will see, because of the legal and personal duties of an executor, it is important to obtain qualified advice. Instructing a trusted established solicitor should reassure you that you are fulfilling that role correctly.

If you would like to speak to us about your role as an executor and how we can help, call James Palmer on 01328 863231 or email james.palmer@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.