When someone dies leaving a Will they usually name at least one Executor. It is usual practice to appoint at least two, that way, if one passes away the other can act without the need for the Probate Registry to appoint a new one.
The Executor is responsible for administering the deceased’s estate and distributing their assets in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. It is an onerous task and one that must be performed diligently. If any mistakes occur while administering the estate the Executor (s) will be found to be personally liable.
The Executor must apply for the Grant of Probate, in the first instance. This can be done through a solicitor or by submitting a personal application. The Executor is required to make an Oath after the deceased’s death (when submitting the Probate application). Their duties are defined as being:
“To collect, get in, and administer according to law the estate of the deceased in accordance with the terms of the will. ”
The Executor is responsible for dealing with completing the Inheritance Tax Return. This is either the IHT 205 or the 400. The IHT 205 is a shorter tax return and is usually completed where the Estate is an ‘Excepted Estate. ’ The IHT 400 is far lengthier and requires a vast amount of information to be included. Care must be taken to ensure the form is completed accurately. The Executor must therefore collate and process all available information about the deceased’s liabilities and assets in order to provide accurate figures in the tax return.
The Executor must then settle the tax liability. Probate will not be granted until the IHT bill is paid. If land or property is involved tax can be paid in annual instalments until the land or property is sold at which time the whole tax bill becomes payable.
One Probate is granted the estate can be distributed. The Executors must distribute the Estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes as set out in their will and there cannot be any variations.
Once the Grant has been obtained they must start to administer the estate. This involves writing to all the relevant companies where the deceased held assets, and to whom the deceased owed money, utility companies etc. . The Executor must maintain correspondence with the various companies until assets can be released or debts can be settled. This can involve a large amount of correspondence and can be time consuming.
The Executor must also settle all debts and liabilities including the funeral costs.
Any errors made by the Executor must be rectified as quickly as possible. Executors are personally liable for any mistakes made.
Once the Estate has been distributed, the Executor is required to prepare Estate accounts to account for everything included in the Estate.
A few things to bear in mind:
- Where the deceased did not leave a Will, they are said to have died Intestate and their assets are distributed in accordance with the strict laws of Intestacy. This means that only close family members will inherit and if there are none, the Estate goes to the Crown.
- The person who administers the deceased’s estate where the deceased died Intestate is called an ‘Administrator. ’ Only close family members (if there are any) can generally apply to be Administrators and a strict pecking order for those who wish to apply must be followed. Note, relatives such as nieces and nephews are not in the list of those that can apply, however, they can, if their parent (sibling of the deceased) has died or renounces their right.
- If an Executor or an Administrator does not wish to act then they must renounce their right to do so and, if necessary, another will be appointed. This must be done by way of a formal Deed of Renunciation which must be sent to the Probate Registry.
- The deceased (before they die) should inform the Executor that he is being appointed Executor – it is good practice to discuss this beforehand so they know what to expect.
- An Executor is entitled to have his expenses paid out of the Estate so they should not be paying anything from their own pocket.
- The Executor should bear in mind that disgruntled beneficiaries or family members who have been left out of a Will have six months in which to contest the Will, from the date Probate was granted. The Executor therefore needs to be vigilant from the outset in the event of a potential claim.
- A solicitor can be appointed to assist with the probate process. The duties of an Executor are extensive so if you feel that you are struggling to deal with the Estate you should consider appointing a solicitor.