Acting in the role of executor on behalf of a person who has recently deceased should never be taken lightly. Executors have a number of important legal, moral, and ethical duties, as we will outline in this article.
What power does an executor of a Will have in the UK?
An executor (also referred to as a ‘personal representative’) is a person named in a Will who takes legal responsibility for the affairs of a deceased person. The process involves ensuring that the assets of the estate of the deceased person (i.e. their money, property and possessions) are protected and then distributed correctly.
Section 25 (Duty of personal representatives) of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 states, “The personal representative of a deceased person shall be under a duty to—
(a) collect and get in the real and personal estate of the deceased and administer it according to law;
(b) when required to do so by the court, exhibit on oath in the court a full inventory of the estate and, when so required, render an account of the administration of the estate to the court;
(c) when required to do so by the High Court, deliver up the grant of probate or administration to that court”.
Who can be an executor of a Will?
Anyone over the age of 18 can be an executor, however, this is often undertaken by the testator’s spouse, civil partner, or children.
How many executors for a Will?
A testator may appoint a single executor, or joint executors of a will, up to a maximum of four if they wish.
What is probate?
Once you have an approximate valuation of the assets of the deceased, you will need to request and be granted permission to liquidate and distribute the estate. This is referred to as applying for probate. Probate provides the executor with the legal right to handle the estate.
You can apply for probate to handle the estate of the deceased by completing an online application form.
If any inheritance tax is owed to HMRC, this must be paid, and any tax forms must be sent to HMRC before applying for probate. The rules state that you must wait 20 days before applying for probate from when you have sent the tax forms to HMRC.
What does an executor of a will do?
If you have been named as an executor in a Will, you will need to carry out the following duties:
- Before probate is granted
- Gather details of the estate (including all of the money, property, and assets of the deceased)
- Estimate the value of the estate - i.e. request bank balances, valuations of shares, property, and other assets
- Calculate the amount of IHT owing to HMRC
- Complete and submit an IHT tax return
- Pay any IHT owing to HMRC – this must be paid by the end of the sixth month after death.
- Apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’
After probate is granted
- Register the Grant of Probate with any financial institutions and businesses holding assets of the deceased – this will let them know that you are legally entitled to handle the assets on behalf of the deceased
- Sell or transfer any assets owned by the deceased person (e.g. properties, shares)
- Repay any debts owed by the deceased person (e.g. loans and funeral expenses)
- Report on and pay tax owing on any income made by the estate of the deceased – this includes any capital gains tax owed if assets have increased in value since the person died or since being valued for IHT purposes. It may also include tax owing on rental income from property, profits from businesses, and interest on savings.
- Distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will.
- Prepare a final Estate Account – this shows all of the money received into the estate and how much has been paid out. This includes details of the assets and liabilities, inheritance tax, capital gains or losses, estate income, administration costs, and entitlement of each beneficiary, and
- Apply for an HMRC clearance certificate – this will confirm that no further changes will affect the tax position of the deceased.
What is the difference between an executor of a will and an administrator?
Executors and administrators both handle the estate on behalf of a deceased person. The difference being that executors are named in a Will, whereas administrators are appointed where there is no Will and, therefore, the rules of intestacy apply.
Can an executor of a Will be a beneficiary?
Yes, an executor of a Will can also be a named beneficiary. Indeed, this is often the case. It is essential, however, that the beneficiary cannot also be a witness to the Will. Rather the Will always be witnessed by two independent individuals.
An executor of a will has to play an important and trusted role in finalising the financial affairs of a person who has died. It is essential that each step is completed carefully and correctly to ensure that the wishes of the testator are adhered to and the inheritance of the beneficiaries is protected. If you are unsure of the process or if you simply don’t have the time necessary, you can appoint a Solicitor to act on your behalf. This provides peace of mind that the estate will be distributed properly and that all steps will be followed in accordance with the law.
Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have an experienced team of private client law Solicitors who can assist you with any legal matter relating to your Will, Power of Attorney, and Estate Planning Needs. To make an appointment, please contact us or call us on 01932 840 111.