The person appointed an executor in a will has been entrusted, by the deceased, to arrange the payment of the estate’s debts and expenses as well as the distribution of the deceased’s property.
The role of an executor is not an easy one, or one to be taken lightly. They will have a legal responsibility for sorting out the finances.
The required forms for inheritance tax will need to be completed by the executor and any tax due will have to be paid. Depending on the complexity of the estate, this can range from a relatively straight forward task to a complicated one that takes time. The executor will need to ascertain the value of the estate as well as its liabilities, which are then submitted by the court.
The Grant of Representation, which gives the person entrusted with dealing with the deceased’s estate legal authority to do so, cannot be obtained until the inheritance tax that is immediately due to HMRC is paid. This means that the deceased’s assets cannot be realised for distribution.
Once the inheritance tax has been paid, the Grant of Representation can be applied for either online or by post, for a fee of £215 for any estate that is worth over £5,000, or no fee if worth less than £5,000.
It cannot be forgotten that prior to distributing the estate of the deceased, all liabilities need to be dealt with, including any debts. It may become apparent that at this point that there is not enough money to cover the debts from the estate, meaning it is insolvent. If this is the case, specialist advice should be sought, so that any creditors are paid in the order of their priority. It is crucial that creditors are paid until advice is sought.
If not all debts are known, a ‘deceased estates notice’ can be placed in The Gazette, which will give creditors two months to contact the executor to register any claim. This protects the executor from any claim they may have missed following the distribution of the estate, where they would be held personally liable.
If the estate is solvent, the distribution of the estate can begin in accordance with the will or the rules of intestacy. The assets will need to be collected in assets, such as bank accounts, shares and any property. They should then discuss with the beneficiaries under the will how they would like to receive the assets, for example the sale of property or specific items sold.
An executor should always keep a full record of accounts and when the estate has been distributed, a prepared final set of accounts, which should shown to the beneficiaries if requested.
As the role of executor can be difficult and daunting, if you have any concerns about the duty or obligations, it is always best to obtain specialist legal advice.