I have asked to be an executor…. should I accept this role?

To be asked to act as someone’s executor, is, you would think, a great compliment. You are trusted to accept and to carry out the duties associated with the role proficiently. However, it can also be a burdensome and prolonged process, especially when you are grieving a loss.

What is an executor? An executor (also known as trustee) is appointed in a Will to administer a person’s estate. Their legal authority derives from the Will.

If you accept the role of an executor, it is your responsibility to administer and distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.

What does it involve? As an executor, you will need to obtain valuations of assets and liabilities or debts. You will need to ensure that any inheritance tax due is settled and any liabilities or debts are paid; you will then need to attend to the encashment or transfer of assets and to distribute the estate.

In order to administer the estate, the executor may need to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate. Depending on the value of the estate, the executor may need to submit the large form IHT400 and associated schedules to HMRC before submitting the application to the Probate Registry, but if the estate is more straightforward, and of smaller worth, the executor may be able to proceed with a single application to the Probate Registry.

How can it be made easier? The more straightforward the Will and the estate, and the more comprehensive the records kept by the testator/testatrix (i.e. the will maker), the easier the administration process will be.

If you are asked to be an executor, you should ensure that you are advised where the original Will is kept. You should also ask the testator/testatrix to keep a log of their assets and any relevant passwords. This log should be kept with the Will or alternatively, in a safe place that the executor can easily gain access to. Keeping this log will enable the executor to notify the relevant financial organisations quickly and therefore administer the estate expediently.

What if I cannot administer the estate by myself? Administering an estate takes a great deal of time, especially where you are not sure of the steps involved. You can, however, accept the role and administer the estate, without having to ‘do the leg work’. If you instruct a solicitor in the administration of an estate, they will guide you through the process; they will obtain the valuations, will apply for a Grant of Probate (where necessary and with your approval) and will attend to the distribution on an estate.  

If you would like more advice concerning estate administration, please contact either Georgia Evans or Christopher Beames on 02920 345 511 or gevans@berrymsmith.com