I have been appointed as executor. What do I do?

  • What is my role?

You have a legal responsibility to sort out the estate of someone who has died. You will have to collect in all the assets, pay off all the debts and liabilities and then distribute the estate as set out in the Will.

Being an executor can be time consuming and you will be responsible for making some important decisions. It is helpful if you can be organised from the start and keep good records.

  • Register the death and organise the funeral

These are usually the first tasks to be undertaken in your role as executor. The funeral can be paid for from the deceased’s own assets if sufficient.

You will need the death certificate to produce to the asset holders so that they will provide you with the information you need for the probate application.

  • Identify the assets, debts and liabilities

Gather up as much paperwork as you can from the deceased. Part of the role of the executor is to establish what assets and liabilities are held by the deceased as at their date of death. It is better to write to too many asset and liability holders than too few.

People often have dormant or long forgotten accounts or insurance policies that have been overlooked. What about internet based accounts? Is there any paperwork for anyone to be able to identify those assets. We often assist clients with carrying out searches for these types of assets so that they can be identified and paid over to the estate.

Some assets such as antiques, jewellery, cars etc may need to be professionally valued. These can be overlooked by executors but should be included in the estate.

The executor should also ensure that assets remain secure until they can be sold  or distributed. Should the locks on a property be changed (yes, if the executor is not sure who has keys); Should valuable items be removed and placed in safe storage? Yes, ideally. If the property is unoccupied it is  probably not a good idea to leave valuable jewellery in situ.

What about debts and liabilities? These can be utilities, mortgages, loans or credit cards. They will also have to ensure that the funeral is paid.

  • Complete inheritance tax forms and apply for probate

Some estates will be subject to inheritance tax and the executors will need to ensure that the inheritance tax is paid before applying for probate. Once you have settled the inheritance tax, you can then apply for probate.

You will then receive a grant of probate and this can be given to the various asset holders in order to close accounts and sell assets.

  • Check tax position

Is the deceased’s income tax position settled up to their date of death? What about  income tax due during the administration period? Some assets when sold as part of the administration of the estate will attract capital gains tax and this should be paid from the deceased’s assets before distribution.

  • Prepare the estate accounts

This helps the beneficiaries and the executor ensure that everything has been accounted for

  • Distribute the estate

The executors distribute the estate in accordance with the Will. Sometimes they may also have to continue to act as trustees, for example if a beneficiary is under 18 years they may be required to look after that money until the beneficiary reaches the appropriate age.

If you need assistance or advice if you are appointed as an executor then please do not hesitate to contact Esther Janalli-Brown on 01306 884432 or email ejbrown@meaby.co.uk for more information.