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Understanding your duties as an executor of a Will

The death of a loved one is something that sadly most of us will experience at some point in our lives.

If you have been named as an executor in the Will, then there will be many practicalities that need to be dealt with, which will fall to you.

At such an emotional time, you may feel unsure about what needs to be done.

Here, Caroline Dobson, an Associate Director with Mander Hadley, who specialises in Wills and Probate, explains what’s involved:

Firstly, let’s look at who can be named an executor.  It’s a common misconception that you cannot act as an executor if you are a beneficiary of the Will.

An executor is very often a spouse, child or other family member who will also inherit from the Will.  Executors need to be aged 18 or above.

Sometimes people are reluctant to take on the task and ask, do I have to agree to be an executor?

The short answer is, no. Hopefully the person making the Will, would have taken time to discuss the matter with you first, so that you may decline.

However, where this is not the case, or perhaps your personal circumstances have changed, you may refuse providing you have not yet started to deal with the administration of the estate. If other executors are named in the Will, they will be able to continue without your involvement.

So what tasks will an executor be expected to deal with? The first duty will usually be to register the death and obtaining copies of the death certificate. It is important to request several official copies of the Will because photocopies, will not be accepted by many of the organisations you will need to notify.

If you have not already done so, you will need to obtain a copy of the Will. You may then need to apply for ‘probate’.

This is the legal process of dealing with the estate (savings, property, possessions etc.) Typically, you will need to contact banks, building societies, insurance and pension providers.

If everything was jointly owned or there is no property involved and assets are below a certain value, probate may not be required.

The threshold for probate varies but is generally between £10,000 and £15,000 depending on the bank or financial institution holding the deceased person’s assets.

It’s always best to seek legal advice to find out whether Probate is required.

If no Will has been left – which is referred to as ‘dying intestate’ – then you will need to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’, which will then legally allow you to deal with probate matters.

The process of dealing with probate can often take several months and involves a fair amount of paperwork and phone calls.

You will be expected to arrange for a valuation of the entire estate, sort out finances and, if appropriate arrange for the sale of any vacant property. You will also need to pay any Inheritance Tax to HM Revenue & Customs and settle other debts from the proceeds of the estate.

Only once this has been done can you deal with the distribution of the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will.

Being an executor can be an onerous duty and it is important to know that help is available. At Mander Hadley, our solicitors can help executors to deal with the paperwork and duties which relate to estate administration. To find out more, please contact us.

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Caroline Dobson

Caroline Dobson

Associate Director – Wills, Probate & Older Client Services
I specialise in helping individuals and families to organise their property and financial affairs so that they can be dealt with effectively and efficiently if they become unable to deal with things themselves through dementia, illness or accident.

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