Executors are responsible for administering the estate of the deceased in accordance with the terms of his or her Will, but it can be a difficult and complex role to carry out. Our dedicated team of lawyers at Taylor & Emmet is here to guide you through the process, but this note has been prepared to help you understand what you need to do and what to expect.
This guide will still be relevant if there isn’t a Will, but in that case the persons who are appointed to deal with the administration of the estate are called “Administrators” instead of Executors. The Executors or Administrators are also sometimes referred to as the “Personal Representatives”.
1 Locating the Will
If the Will was prepared by Taylor & Emmet it is likely that we hold the original document – call us and we will tell you. If the Will was not prepared by us, the deceased person should have a copy of the Will in their home, including details of the solicitor or bank who prepared it. You must obtain the original Will, as we cannot use a copy.
2 What if there isn’t a Will?
If no Will can be found there are special rules for deciding how the estate will be divided amongst the deceased’s family and who should deal with the administration. Call us and we can explain how the rules work in your case.
3 The Funeral and Registering the Death
As an Executor it is technically your duty to arrange the funeral, although in practice this is usually done by members of the family. The deceased’s bank will normally release money to pay for the funeral before the Grant of Probate is obtained, provided there is enough money in the account. You may also have to register the death, in which case you must contact your local registrars office as soon as possible. They will tell you what information you need to provide. You should obtain at least two or three copies of the death certificate from the Registrar and we will need at least one copy; preferably two.
4 Grant of Probate
Probate is the document issued by the Court confirming your authority to deal with the deceased’s affairs. If the estate is small, or if most of the assets are held in joint names, you may not have to obtain Probate, but a Grant of Probate will always be needed if the deceased owned a property in his or her sole name. If there isn’t a Will, the Court will issue a “Grant of Letters of Administration” instead of a Grant of Probate, confirming who will act as Administrator. The Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration may also be referred to as a “Grant of Representation”.
5 The Estate
Gather together the deceased's papers and list the assets of their estate. This should include all assets and property in the deceased's name whether held as an individual or jointly with someone else. An executor must obtain values of all the assets of the estate at the date of death, but we can help you with this. It is usually simplest if you hand the papers over to us after you have carried out the initial sorting because we can quickly identify the assets and know who to contact. The following is a list of some of the documents we will need, but if you are not sure whether a particular document is relevant, it is best that you let us see it:
- Title deeds to the deceased’s property
- Insurance policies
- Recent bank statements
- Building society passbooks
- Share certificates and investment account statements
- Premium Bonds and National Savings Certificates
- Tax certificates and dividend vouchers
- PAYE coding notice or other documents from HM Revenue & Customs
- Payslips from the deceased’s employer or pension provider
- Letter from DWP confirming entitlement to benefits or pension
6 Debts and Liabilities
An executor needs to obtain details of all debts and liabilities, including the funeral account. As mentioned earlier, the deceased’s bank will normally release money to pay for the funeral before the Grant of Probate is obtained. If the deceased owned a house you need to check that the house and contents are insured and inform the insurance company of the death. If there is no insurance we can usually arrange cover for you. Other organisations should also be informed, so they know there may be a delay in payment of bills. If you would like us to deal with these matters for you we will need to see recent bills or statements for the following:
- House and contents insurance
- Council tax
- Water rates
You must try to obtain details of any gifts made by the deceased in the seven years prior to their death as this value is added to the estate for inheritance tax purposes.
8 Inheritance Tax (IHT)
When we know the value of all the assets and liabilities we will be able to complete the IHT Account and calculate whether IHT is payable. If it is, at least some of the tax must be paid before you can apply for Probate, but you can often access funds from the deceased's bank accounts, or National Savings & Investments, to pay the tax bill.
9 Income tax
It is also your duty to ensure that the deceased’s income tax affairs are finalised. This may involve completing a final tax return but there is often a repayment of income tax due to the estate. If the deceased had an accountant he or she will be able to help, but if not, we will be able to deal with this for you.
10 Application for Probate
We will complete the court forms, which are then sent to the court. You do not need to appear at the court. Probate is usually granted within one to two weeks, unless there is a problem or the Registrar has a query about the Will. Once Probate is granted you will be able to deal with the administration of the estate, but again, we will be able to help you with this.
You will need to pay any debts, liabilities or cash legacies under the Will and any expenses incurred in relation to the administration of the estate. If there is not enough cash in the deceased’s estate you may have to sell some of the assets. Any remaining assets can then be sold or transferred to the beneficiaries under the Will.
12 Estate Account
This is a statement showing all receipts and payments in connection with the estate. We will usually prepare this for you. We are here to help.