20th March 2021
If you’ve been named the Executor of a Will, you are likely facing a new experience that you feel unprepared for.
The Executor is responsible for paying off any debts or liabilities the deceased had accumulated and is responsible for distributing assets from the estate to the beneficiaries under the Will. You might be wondering what you should do if you’ve been named the executor of a Will, and it’s understandable if you’re a bit worried about it.
Proving a Will (obtaining the grant of probate for a person who has died leaving a Will) is highly challenging, especially if you’ve never been responsible for something like this before. You may feel overwhelmed trying to balance all of the tasks expected of you as the Executor, and you might not know where to start. However, lack of experience doesn’t mean that it will be very difficult for you to fulfill your role.
It’s common to worry about whether or not you will follow the deceased’s wishes properly, but with a few steps, you can ease that anxiety and take on the challenge with a clear direction.
We’ve put together this article to help you identify what challenges you may face as an Executor of a Will and how to approach every one of them. Here are a few things you should do if you’ve been named Executor.
What is an Executor?
An Executor is somebody named in the Will who has the responsibilities of handling property, money, possessions and debts of a person who has passed away. While it might sound simple, the Executor is responsible for finding out the assets, paying any debts and distributing whatever remains according to the wishes of the dearly departed.
In most cases, the Executor is a relative or close friend of the deceased, which means that they are usually also mourning a loss while handling the emotional and physical responsibilities that the Executorship position entails.
Sometimes, a professional is appointed as Executor, such as a solicitor. Usually, this is done in cases where a person has complicated affairs and there is a need to have an expert involved very early in the administration of the estate.
Hiring a professional is also sometimes used in situations where there is potential conflict within the family. The professional could save the family the potential for disputes to arise as to how the estate should be administered. This in turn would save the estate money because there wouldn’t be the need to go to court unnecessarily.
Suppose a family decides that a professional who the deceased previously hired is not needed, in that case, the professional can be asked to renounce to allow the family to administer the estate themselves.
What to Do if You Don’t Want To Be An Executor
Legally you are not forced to take on the responsibility of an Executorship. Maybe you don’t have time, you’re facing a health crisis or your emotional state is simply too extreme. In these cases, you can sign what is called a Deed of Renunciation. Here in England and Wales, this cancels your status as an Executor and allows the other named Executors to administer the estate of the dearly departed.
If there are no other named Executors in the Will, the beneficiaries entitled to the estate can apply for Letters of Administration with the Will attached.
Renouncing your role as Executor should be done as soon as physically possible before you’re involved in the process of handling the deceased’s estate. Things can get complicated quickly if you’ve already been engaged and then wish to back out.
Your First Step After Being Named the Executor of a Will
If you’ve decided to continue serving as the Executor of a Will, the first thing you should do is understand what responsibilities you will have with this position.
Some of these are:
- Identify all assets of the estate and value them
- Identify any debts and liabilities
- Complete inheritance tax forms
- Apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
- Pay for funeral costs
- Pay off debts
- Distribute the estate according to the deceased’s wishes.
- Draft estate accounts to show all the monies that were received, any debts and liabilities paid together with the distributions to the beneficiaries
Those in charge of an estate may also be responsible for acting as Trustees for children under 18, if any or if a Trust arises as a result of the Will. For example, if the deceased left a child a large sum of money, the Trustee is responsible for protecting and ensuring that the money grows until the child is 18.
The executor is responsible, in short, for collecting, valuing, paying off and distributing all assets of the deceased. You may need to contact external companies for situations such as valuing property or tracking down all potential debts a person had.
What If Something Goes Wrong?
You can be personally liable if there are losses to the beneficiaries or creditors. If you could have reasonably avoided a late fee on a debt, for example, you would be responsible for the cost of late payment.
Executors are always advised to place Section 27 adverts in the National Gazette and in the local paper to notify any potential unknown beneficiaries or creditors. This protects them from any liability in this respect.
Let Us Help
At Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors, we can help you navigate your new position as Executor of a loved one’s estate. Our probate services can help you finalise the affairs of someone who has recently passed and help take some of the pressure off your shoulders as the executor of the will.
We know how vital kind and sympathetic services are for you as you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, and our team is prepared to help you every step of the way.
Reach out to us and let’s talk. Let us help you ease some of the burdens that come with a loved one’s passing.