As an executor named on a will left by a testator (person who wrote the will), you will be called upon to administer that person’s estate after their passing.
Since probate can sometimes be a long and drawn out process, the executor would need begin their appointed duties immediately after a person dies. The executor is likely to continue working on matters of the estate long after the mourners’ lives get back to normal.
The main role of the executor is to ensure that the deceased’s wishes are being reasonably followed in accordance to the will. This means that the executor has to keep an inventory of the deceased’s possessions, pay off debts, collect assets and resolve liabilities. It also means that they have to distribute any legacies (whether its physical items, cash sums, residues, stocks and bonds) to the surviving family members, and other persons and organisations named in the will.
This might seem like a difficult task at first, but by keeping a check-list you can keep track of your progress and it will also be handy when making an account of the estate later on.
As an example, here’s a summary of what you need to do in case of death in Scotland:
The death needs to be legally registered and a death certificate obtained
Funeral arrangements need to be made
The will of the deceased needs to be obtained and reviewed
If there is no will, the intestacy procedures need to be established
Locate the executors (if there are any) from the will and confirm that they are willing to administer the estate. Their consent needs to be in writing
The executors need to make an application for the Grant of Probate from the Commissary Department of the Sheriff Court, local to the area where the deceased were domiciled
Any property and other high value assets need to be secured and insured appropriately
Create an executor’s bank account to help keep and organise financial records
Get in touch with any financial and business institutions in which the deceased had an interest or investment and request any necessary information relevant to Confirmation and the HMRC
Make a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities. Does the estate require confirmation? Are there any discrepancies or complexities. If, so seek professional legal help
Make sure that there are sufficient funds to pay the Inheritance Tax if the estate is valued at £325,000 or more. The Grant of Confirmation will not be issued until the IHT is paid off
If there are not enough funds for the IHT, you can borrow or sell a part of the deceased’s estate. It is recommended to use the deceased’s own account using the Inheritance Tax Direct Payment Scheme
Complete and return the confirmation forms (Form C1 for normal confirmation, C5 if the estate is either excepted or exempt & excepted, if its neither then fill in form IHT400) and return to the relevant Sheriff Court
When you receive confirmation (you should have requested several copies) send them to the relevant financial organisations (e.g. banks) to demonstrate your right as an executor to deal with the estate, as well as to close or transfer any accounts
Check for any outstanding debts and get in touch with creditors as soon as possible. If any large or unusual amounts surface, seek legal advice
Make sure to report to the HMRC and reply to any of their queries and correspondence. Also, make sure report any additional assets or liabilities that turn up after the grant of confirmation
Once all assets have been collected, settle any debts including any unpaid income and capital gains tax to do with the deceased’s income up until the time of their death
Request an income tax return or repayment claims form from the HMRC and fill it in with the details of the income of the estate up to the end of the tax year in which the person died. Pay the due tax, and file any tax returns for each subsequent year if the administration is not completed within a year
Request an Application for a Clearance Certificate (Form IHT30) from the HMRC. Complete it and have it signed by all the executors and when the time comes receive the signed discharge certificate from HMRC
Make sure that no inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents Act 1975) and co-habitant (Scotland) claims have been made in the six months after death and receipt of confirmation. If there are, then settle any claims for legal rights, if legal rights are to be renounced then obtain legal documents to say so, and file them with the estate papers. When everything is settled, the estate can be properly distributed
Before distributing, make sure that all the assets are accounted for and debts paid
When distributing the legacies and assets, obtain receipts from the beneficiaries
Create a detailed estate account and confirm with all the beneficiaries that the details and amounts are correct. Send each beneficiary a copy. Once the final residual balance is distributed to the beneficiaries, provide them with an Estate Income Form (Form R185), which outlines their share of the estate and how much was deducted in the form of tax for that year
When all the cheques and balances are cleared, you can close the executor’s bank account
Once the administration is complete, all the estate documents and accounts need to be saved and filed away safely for future reference.