What does an Executor do?

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What does an executor do

Your Executor(s) will deal with the ‘administration of your estate’ (often called ‘probate’) when you die…

Acting as someone’s executor is a big job, and one not to be taken on lightly.  So, let’s take an overview of some of the key responsibilities of an executor.

Who can be my Executor?

Technically, anyone can be your executor as long as they are over 18 and of sound mind.  They can also be (and often are) beneficiaries of the will.  You should choose someone who (a) has the time to deal with your probate, (b) the necessary skills to do it (good at admin), and (c) is willing to do so!

How do I appoint my Executor?

You appoint an executor in the terms of your will.

Can I refuse to be Executor?

Yes.  You do not have to take an executor appointment if you do not want to.  You can ‘renounce’ the appointment.  If you want to do this, you must not be seen to do anything with dealing with the estate before you make that renunciation (this is called intermeddling).  However, once the executor takes the Grant of Probate, they must then see things through to the end, and there are only very limited circumstances in which they can then step back.

What will my Executor(s) have to do?

Your executors will deal with finalising all of your financial affairs after you die.  This will of course differ from one estate to the next, and the amount of work needed (and its complexity) will depend on a number of factors like: what assets are in the estate; is the will in dispute; and how many beneficiaries are there.

By way of example of what your executors will need to do:

  • Register the death
  • Funeral – organise
  • Notifications – inform every company you have dealt with of your passing (be sending a copy death certificate) and gather ‘date of death values’ for all assets ready to apply for probate
  • House – secure it, make sure it is insured, and in time clear and sell it
  • Income Tax – finalise your income and capital gains tax affairs for the period up to the date of your death, and then separately for the probate period
  • Inheritance Tax – disclose a full account to the Revenue of assets and pay IHT (before probate can be granted)
  • Probate – apply to the court for the Grant of Probate
  • Assets – realise all assets
  • Liabilities – pay all liabilities
  • Cash Legacies – pay and fixed cash legacies
  • Residuary estate – pay out the balance of the estate to the residuary beneficiaries

Depending on a number of factors, your executors may not have to apply for probate, and/or even if they do there is a simpler process to follow.  This is called an ‘excepted estate’.  If you would like to know more about this you can read our guide: Excepted Estates – When is Probate not required?

What happens if the Executors in my Will die before me?

This is not a problem and there is always an alternative.  In the first instance, any of the named residuary beneficiaries can take the Grant of Probate instead.

Do I have to have a Solicitor act as Executor?

No, you do not have to appoint a solicitor to be your executor.  And, even if you appoint ‘lay’ executors (eg family members), if they decided that they wanted help with the legal work, they can then appoint a solicitor on their own behalf to do the work.

The benefits of having a good probate solicitor are worth thinking about.  And, you may want to think about relieving friends or family members of the considerable time burden of sorting out your estate.  The benefits of appointing a solicitor include:

  • Burden – you are not placing the burden on a family member or friend
  • Expert – a good probate solicitor will be administering estates day in day out and so will know what to do and when. If you appoint a family member they will be ‘learning on the job’.  That’s a big ask
  • Speed – a good probate solicitor will be able to get things done for your beneficiaries more quickly than a lay executor
  • Protection – solicitors are heavily regulated and the estate beneficiaries would have the comfort of knowing that if they are not happy with progress, they can refer the matter to our regulator and/or the Legal Ombudsman
Pile of paper

Probate is a big job, and you should think carefully about who you burden with that…

Is an Executor the same as a Trustee?

No.  Your executor deals with the administration of the estate.  Trustees then hold money or assets thereafter if there are any will trusts contained in the will.  Invariably, executors and trustees will be the same people.

What is the difference between an Executor and Trustee?

How do I let my Executors know what I want?

You may have strong views about things like funeral arrangements, or the distribution of personal items.  If you do, it is a good idea to do a ‘letter of wishes’ when you make your will.  Things like funeral arrangements do not need to be included in your will.  This deals with the legally binding stuff.  ‘Wishes’ can be dealt with in your letter of wishes, and if your wishes change, your will remains as was, and you just update your letter of wishes.

What if my Executor(s) also had Lasting Power of Attorney?

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) ‘dies’ with you and must not be used once you have passed.  Even if they are the same people, your executors where a new hat after your death, and must not use the LPA any longer.  This can be frustrating as bank accounts will be frozen once your executors have notified the banks of your death.

Can my Executor also be the Guardian of my children?

Technically yes, an executor can also be a guardian.  However, it creates quite a moral dilemma for them.  In short, your executor has a responsibility to protect your children’s inheritance for them until they reach the age of entitlement (18, or later if your will states that).  However, the guardian is entitled to be paid money from the children’s inheritance for their education and general upbringing.  This is the moral dilemma you create by having the same people wearing the two hats.  For this reason, it is generally thought best to have different people acting as executor to those acting as guardian.  If you would like to know more about this, check out our guide: Who Should I choose as a Guardian?

Does my Executor have to sign my Will?

No, the only person to sign your will is you.  Your own signature must be witnessed, and on that note, the witness must NOT be your executor!  Our article ‘How to sign a Will’ explains more.

Are you an Executor and want help?

Do reach out to our expert probate solicitors with any queries you might have.  We can help in lots of ways from isolated issues, right through to relieving you of the burden of the estate, and doing all of the legal work for you.

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