Advice Admin & Legal Responsibilities and Duties of an Executor

Responsibilities and Duties of an Executor

If you have been selected as executor, it is important to understand your duties. If you are selecting an executor it is important to understand what an executor does, so that you can select the right person. In this guide we break down everything you need to know about being an executor and what you should look for when selecting one for your online will.

Firstly, what is an executor of a will?

When someone dies and they have a will, the executor is responsible for executing the will. This means settling tax, debts, funeral costs, funeral wishes, and making sure the assets and possessions go to the correct people. The executor is generally a trusted friend, family member, or a professional firm.

What does an executor of a will do?

It is important to remember that the person listed as executor has no power until the person in the will dies. Once the person dies, they have permission to access bank accounts, financial assets and all paperwork related to the will.

However, there are limits to the power an executor has. In short, they have to act out the wishes of the will. If they do not, they can be held criminally and financially liable. These protections are put in place so that they do not abuse this position of power and to protect the beneficiaries of the will.

Who can be an executor of a will?

The answer to this question is nearly anyone. This includes beneficiaries of the will and family members. A common misconception is that it needs to be a lawyer, this is not correct. Most people select a solicitor to be executor as they want the peace of mind of a professional handling their affairs.

With that said, choosing an executor for your will requires thought. Firstly, this person should be someone you trust. Probate can be a lengthy process and is also often quite emotional for all parties involved. Make sure you select an executor who is well organised and generally on top of their personal finances. If the executor of your will knows your beneficiaries it can help the process, but this is not mandatory. Once you have decided who you want to select, or maybe you have made a shortlist, you need to discuss this with them.

It is important to note that the person you select to be executor can always ask for legal help when the time comes. 

Can someone opt out of being an executor of a will?

Yes, and this is quite common. The person who is selected as executor of a will can pass their duties on to another co-executor. They can also ask a professional for help and simply oversee the process. As a last fail-safe, the beneficiaries can apply to settle the estate and act as the executors collectively.

What are the responsibilities of an executor of a will?

Below we list the typical duties of an executor. This list is not exhaustive, and if you have any specific questions then give our probate team a call for free on 020 4525 7580.

  • Find the will. If you have been asked to be the executor of a will and that person dies, you need to find the will. We have more information on how to do this here. The sooner you do this the better as the will often includes funeral wishes. The National Will Register is an excellent place to start: it has records for over 8 million wills written by solicitors and will writers from all over the country.
  • Registering the death. The executor of a will does not actually need to do this. However, they will need a copy of the Death Certificate to complete their duties. You can do this on the government website
  • Telling relevant corporate authorities. This includes, but is not limited to, insurance companies, utility companies, mobile phone companies, and banks.
  • Telling relevant government authorities. The executor of a will can use the ‘Tell us once’ service.
  • Applying for a grant of probate. This grant simply gives the executor of a will proof of their right to access and transfer the estate according to the wishes in the will.
  • Gathering the estate. The grant allows the executor of a will to start pooling together all the funds and assets in an estate so they can start to work toward dispersing it.
  • Valuing the estate. This is one of the hardest jobs for the executor of a will to complete. If you need help please give our probate team a call on 020 4525 7580. An estate’s value includes money, property, land, belongings, and assets like stocks and shares. If the deceased person's will is detailed, it should hopefully include a list of all their assets. However, it is not uncommon to find assets not listed in the will as assets held by a person changes over time.
  • Completing the inheritance tax form. In the UK you will need to pay inheritance tax. Once this form is filed, HMRC will tell the executor how much inheritance tax is owed. Sometimes there is no inheritance tax owed.
  • Paying inheritance tax out of the estate. If there is inheritance tax owed, the executor will need to pay it.
  • Paying for the funeral (Optional). If the bank of the deceased allows it (sometimes they do), the executor might be able to pay for the funeral out of the estate.
  • Paying any outstanding debts. What usually happens is that the executor of a will creates an advertisement asking if anyone is owed part of an estate.
  • Paying any outstanding taxes. This can include but is not limited to Income or Capital Gains Tax.
  • Transferring or selling the property. Not always required.
  • The distribution of assets to the correct beneficiaries. The will should outline who is set to inherit what. This is the main job of an executor and can take the longest amount of time.
  • Communication with the beneficiaries. The executor will need to keep what is called estate accounts. They will also need to make these available to beneficiaries during and after the estate administration process.

Are you the executor of a will? Need help?

Octopus Legacy, through its partnership with the National Bereavement Service (NBS), has a variety of fixed-price probate services. The NBS deal with bereaved families every day and have a panel of trusted lawyers. The cheapest option is not always the best solution. However, what you’ll see on the initial quote is what you will pay.

You will also have an Octopus Legacy representative to ensure everything goes as smoothly as it can. Chat to us online or call our probate team today at 020 4525 7580 for free help.

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