While many people are aware that they are the executor of a relative or friend’s will, it is also possible that you have been named as an executor without prior knowledge. The following steps will take you through some of the main steps involved in the process.
The difference between an executor and an administrator
There are two types of personal representative (the person responsible for the administration of the deceased estate). An executor is a person who has been named for the role in the will of the deceased person. The role of administrator arises when the deceased has died without leaving a will (this is known as dying intestate) and is legally decided according to the laws of intestacy.
Is it possible to refuse?
Yes, you can make the decision not to be responsible for the administration of the estate, but it is important to renounce your entitlement of the role before work on the will begins. There are professional agencies who can act on your behalf, or you can use the solicitor’s firm or another law company to carry out the role of personal representative for you.
Obtain a death certificate
The deceased’s will may include details regarding their wishes for a funeral. It is the responsibility of the executor or administrator to read this and ensure there is enough money in the deceased account to cover the cost of the funeral. Although assets are usually frozen after death, most banks will release money to pay for the funeral if presented with a death certificate and the funeral bill.
Grant of Probate
It is important to consult a legal adviser to find out if you need to obtain a Grant of Probate for the will (it is normal process to have to obtain this before you can deal with the estate). The Grant of Probate proves that you are officially responsible for dealing with the estate.
As part of the Grant of Probate process, you will usually estimate the estate’s value at the date of their death. This will include property, bank accounts, savings accounts, insurance policies, investments such as stocks, jewellery, art, and antiques.
The current inheritance tax threshold is £325,000 (2012-13). If the estate is valued above this amount, tax must be paid at a rate of 40% on the amount exceeding £325,000 (or at 36% for estates which have reduced rates because of charitable donations). If tax needs to be paid, this must occur before probate is issued, which can often be arranged by a bank loan. The executor or administrator is responsible for ensuring this happens within six months from the date of death. In some circumstances the amount of tax can be reduced or cancelled through a Deed of Variation, but you should consult a legal adviser for more details.
The final stages of being a personal representative come after a certificate is issued by the Capital Taxes Office and the executor or administrator has approved the estate’s accounts. The estate’s residue is then distributed among the recipients named in the will.
James Sheehan is a blogger with past legal experience. He provides advice for executors who are unsure about any areas of their duties, or who require some assistance through the DAS Instant Law Line.