The Duties of an Executor

Overview – Duties of an Executor explained

The executor of an estate has the job of administering the estate, which means that they wind up the affairs of the person who has died and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.  Executors are usually family members but sometimes a professional is appointed.

The executor’s role is a personal and serious one with legal requirements, duties and obligations falling onto your shoulders.  You may be responsible for dealing with large sums of money and properties.  You will be responsible for sorting out the tax affairs of the person who has died.

This is a brief summary of what’s involved in administering an estate.

  • The immediate responsibility is to arrange the funeral.
  • You may have to register the death.
  • The estate has to be valued. This includes any land or property, personal items such as jewellery, cars etc, cash, pensions and investments.  If there are assets abroad, these will also need to be valued.  You may need to obtain professional valuations for personal chattels as well as for houses and land.
  • Property has to be secured and the insurance company needs to be told if the property is empty.
  • You need to make a full list or inventory of the assets in the estate.
  • It is important to safeguard any valuables. This may be best achieved by taking them into safekeeping.
  • When you have valued the estate, you will need to apply for a Grant of Representation.  This will be a Grant of Probate (if there is a valid Will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (if there is no valid Will or no named executor).  If the estate is small, you may not need a Grant of Representation.
  • When the Grant of Representation has been issued, you can start the process of calling in the assets and selling the property as appropriate, and start paying any outstanding debts and taxes.
  • When all debts and taxes have been paid you can pay any legacies given by the Will
  • During the process you will gather together all the information you need to finalise the tax affairs of the person who has died.
  • When all the assets have been dealt with, all liabilities have been paid, the tax affairs have been settled and any legacies have been paid, you should be ready to prepare Estate Accounts. These will need to show all the financial transactions you have undertaken during the administration, and show what the residuary estate comes to and how it divides between the beneficiaries.
  • If there are any under-age beneficiaries, trustees will need to deal with the investment of their legacy.

What else is expected of me?

The law expects you:

  • to put the beneficiaries’ interests first;
  • not to profit from your position;
  • to keep a good and accurate account of your financial dealings during the administration;
  • to act reasonably in relation to estate property

This sounds like hard work – do I really have to do this?

No.  If you do not want to act as executor you may renounce your position and have nothing further to do with administering the estate.  But if you do start acting as executor, you might have “intermeddled” with the estate and not be able to stop acting.  If you have been acting as executor and have a good reason to stop (e.g. ill health), you have to apply to the court to be discharged.

I am also a beneficiary of the estate.  How does that work?

You can be an executor and a beneficiary at the same time.  You can also renounce as an executor but remain a beneficiary.  Your first duty however, will be that of executor.

This sounds costly – I don’t think I can afford it?

All the costs of the administration come out of the estate, not out of your pocket.    If you incur reasonable out of pocket expenses, you may reclaim them from the estate.

And if I need help with all this?

Contact one of our probate team and we’ll tell you how much it will cost to give further advice or take over some or all aspects of the administration for you.