If you read our September blog ‘five essential things to include in your Will’ you’ll know that choosing the right executors is crucial. In this blog, we explain the role of an executor to help you decide which of your friends or family will be most suitable.
Will executor duties
An executor is a person who is legally responsible for ensuring the possessions and assets of a person who has died are distributed as per their wishes.
Responsibility starts when the person dies. Unless an estate is small and straightforward, or if it’s held jointly with a surviving person, executors need to apply to the court for the Grant of Probate. This permits them to claim, transfer, sell or distribute the estate. Responsibility ends when everything has been passed onto the beneficiaries. This is known as the probate (or administration) period.
Up to four executors can be stipulated in a Will. When the Will is made, your solicitor may offer you extra copies to give to them, or you can give them your solicitor’s details so they know who to contact when you die. If nobody is named, responsibility falls to the deceased’s next of kin.
The executors are responsible for:
- Calculating the assets
- Calculating debts (mortgages, credit cards etc.) and selling assets to pay them off if needed
- Valuing the estate
- Sorting out the tax on any income generated by the estate, and dealing with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- Ensuring remaining assets are then distributed to beneficiaries who may be family, friends or charities
- Keeping accounts to show how the estate has been administered
The probate period can take between six months and one year.
If there are several executors, they will need to agree where to hold money (this could be in a new, separate account), how withdrawals or payments are made from this account and what assets they need to sell.
Debts and taxes
Executors are responsible for paying any bills and unpaid taxes, applying for tax refunds, filling in a self-assessment form if needed and repaying any overpaid benefits.
They may also have to deal with people making a claim. By placing a notice in The Gazette anyone with an interest in the estate has two months to come forward. If the estate is distributed before this time and a claim is successful, the executors may have to pay it themselves. Placing notices in local newspapers can also help protect you from unexpected claims.
Executor of a Will HMRC responsibilities
Inheritance tax may need to be paid to HMRC. To do this, the executors need to identify assets and debts to estimate the estate’s value. This can take a long time, especially if the deceased had trusts or there’s tax to pay, so you need to be aware that there may be deadlines for payment and penalties if you don’t meet them.
How long do you need to keep the records of a deceased person?
HMRC can ask to see a deceased person’s records up to 20 years after inheritance tax has been paid, so it’s crucial that you keep:
- A copy of the Will
- Inheritance tax forms and supporting documents, including any unused inheritance tax threshold that can be transferred to a spouse or civil partner
- Records showing how you calculated the value of the estate
- Final accounts which show how money, property and personal belongings were distributed. Beneficiaries may need a copy of the final accounts too
How can AGR Law help?
An executor’s duties can be daunting, time-consuming, and complicated. Under the supervision of our director, Gina Samuel-Richards, we work with Satwinder Sidhu (a Private Client and Estate Planning Consultant) and Faizal Essat (a Legal Executive Advocate) to handle the probate process for you.