When someone prepares a Will and leaves their assets to named individuals after they have died they must always appoint an Executor. This can be an individual or more than one person. The Executor has the duty of administering the deceased wishes in accordance with the terms set out in their Will.
If you are ever named as an Executor one of the first questions we usually get asked is what are your roles and responsibilities. This blog will explain what you have do and what it means to be an Executor of someone’s Will.
The first thing an Executor should do is register the death. This is usually required within 5 days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 8 days in Scotland. This can be done in a Local Authorities Registration Office and in order to register the death the Executor will need.
- A medical certificate from the GP or hospital doctor.
- Permission from the coroner that you can register the death.
When the death has been registered the Executor will be given a certificate for burial and cremation and then the funeral can be arranged. It is important that the Executor is familiar with the funeral plans (if any) set out in the deceased Will, this will specify sometimes whether the person wishes to be cremated or buried and any specific directors for the funeral itself.
When the death certificate has been obtained then the Executor can then proceed to get valuations of the deceased’s assets.
Administering the estate
It is the Executors duty to administer the deceased’s estate, this will involve getting valuations of the various assets and then ultimately submitting an inheritance tax return to HMRC and applying for a grant of probate. Most people employ a solicitor to assist them with this role and this is a service that we offer to our clients. When all the details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities have been obtained, an application for a grant of probate can be made to the local Probate Office. Before this can be done, however, an inheritance tax return has to be filed with HMRC.
The Executor has a duty of completing and submitting an inheritance tax return and paying any inheritance tax owed, it is also a duty on the Executor to file any relevant income tax and capital gains tax returns and pay any outstanding tax owed. Again, professional services are normally engaged to assist the Executor with this duty, either through employing a solicitor or an accountant. The Executor must return the inheritance tax to HMRC within 6 months of the date of death.
Debts and financial responsibility
It is the Executors role to distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will, but all debts left be the deceased and any tax due to HMRC must be paid before the funds are distributed. An Executor is legally and personally responsible for sorting out the finances of the person who has died and this includes making sure all debts and taxes are paid. An Executor is personally liable for any debts that fall on the estate in the event that they have paid money out to beneficiaries before the debts have been paid or if they have acted inappropriately. They can also be liable to personally pay the inheritance tax in certain circumstances. A claim can be brought against an Executor up to 12 years after the date of death.
Challenges to the Will
If there is a challenge to the Will then the claim will be brought against the Executor because they are representing the estate. Again, this usually involves instructing solicitors, but the Executor will have a duty then to defend such proceedings.
Distribution of the estate
When the grant of probate has been obtained then the Executor can begin collecting the assets and paying off all debts and tax liability. When all the debts and tax has been paid and the assets have been collected or in case a property sold, then the Executor has a duty to distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will. The Executor must also keep proper estate accounts showing full records of monies coming in and being paid out. If the Executor fails to do this then they can be considered personally liable.
It is usually an honour to be named as an Executor in someone’s Will, you can be interested with a responsibility of carrying out their wishes. There are a number of circumstances Executors can be held personally liable which is why it is important to seek legal advice as an Executor before administrating someone’s estate. With careful consideration and proper planning these pitfalls can be avoided and if you have been named as an Executor of the Will or if you are considering making your own Will.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01654 711499 and we can offer you further advice.