If you’re named as the executor of a will, you’re being held responsible for administering the estate of the person making the will, or the testator after they die.
Upon a person’s death, the executors are required to take on their administrative duties right away; even after the other mourners have gone back to their daily routine, the executors will still be handling the matters of the estate.
One of the duties of the executor is to take inventory of the deceased’s possessions and debts, collecting the possessions, settling the bills and distributing heirlooms and legacies (including cash, items or residue) to the beneficiaries, in accordance to the wishes of the testator.
While the many duties of an executor may seem to be discouraging, you should not panic. Here is a summary list of the things that need to be taken care of upon someone’s death:
• Register the death and receive copies of the death certificate
• Handle the funeral matters
• Locate and review the deceased’s will, if no will exists then the person is considered to have died intestate
• Identify and locate the executors, and determine whether they agree to act. If they don’t agree or if no executors are named in the will, determine the people who will act as executors and get their agreement in writing
• Get the required probate forms by applying to the Personal Application Department of your local Probate Registry
• Make sure that the house or other property of the deceased is secured, along with house, car and other substantial insurance policies
• Keep track of the financial records and valuation documents for the assets, as well as dealing with the deceased’s mail
• Open an executor’s bank account
• Get in touch with all financial and business organisations in which the deceased was involved. You will need copies of the death certificate for most of these places
• Make a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities. Review them and decide whether a grant of probate is necessary. Check for any insolvencies
• Acquire the funds to pay inheritance tax if the estate seems to be over £325,000 (2012/2013). You can raise the money by borrowing or selling some of the deceased’s assets. Remember that inheritance tax must be paid before grant of probate can be issued
• As information is collected, fill out the probate forms and return them to the relevant Probate Registry
• The Probate Registry will require all of the named executors to visit the office for signing or swearing in of the necessary probate form and pay the probate fees
• Settle any inheritance tax due and arrange for instalment payments for any assets that qualify
• You will receive the grant of probate by post along with any sealed copies that you paid for
• Send copies of the grant of probate to each of the organisations necessary to prove the executor’s entitlement to deal the deceased’s assets. In return, the organisations will release the deceased’s assets to the executors and close or transfer the deceased’s accounts and files
• Check for and contact the creditors, where necessary. For any large or unexpected claims that may arise, seek legal aid
• Liaise with the HMRC regarding any values of the assets and liabilities of the estate. Make sure to confirm all final figures with them. Report any new assets or liabilities that may arise since the probate was granted
• After all the assets are collected, pay off all the debts including taxes
• Request an income tax return or repayment claim form and complete it with the details of the income of the estate to the end of the tax year during which the deceased died
• Request an Application for a Clearance Certificate (IHT30) from HMRC, fill it in and ask all the executors to sign it and in time receive the discharge certificate from HMRC
• Make sure that there have been no claims against the estate under the Inheritance Act 1975 in the six months post the grant of probate
• After all the assets are collected and debts paid, you can distribute the legacies. Get a receipt from each beneficiary
• Write up the estate accounts. Have all the residuary beneficiaries approve it and send them copies. Give the residuary beneficiaries an Estate Income (R185) Form showing their share of the estate and the tax deducted for the year
• Close up the executor’s account when all the cheques have cleared
• Once probate is complete, save the accounts and keep them for at least 12 years, along with any other vital estate documents.