of a Will
Find out what an executor is, what they do and how to choose an executor for your Will.
Whether you're choosing an executor for your Will or you've been named as an executor and you're looking for advice, our guide answers your questions about executors.
An executor is a person named in a Will who is legally responsible for managing the estate of someone who has died. This means dealing with any property, savings, pensions, investments, possessions and pets that are left behind.
Executors must ensure that the instructions in a Will are carried out and that all legal and financial obligations are taken care of to the best of their ability.
The role of an executor is a big job. That's why it's so important to choose someone you can rely on when naming an executor in your Will.
An executor's responsibilities include:
- Ensuring that all property in the estate is kept safe and secure
- Ensuring that any property or items of value are adequately insured
- Registering the death with a GP or doctor
- Informing relevant organisations about the death, for example utility companies
- Closing down bank accounts
- Finding all financial documents that belonged to the person who died
- Sending a copy of the death certificate to organisations that hold money belonging to the person who died
- Finding out what money is owed to the estate and collecting debts
- Distributing the estate to beneficiaries as set out in the Will or, if there is no Will, according to intestacy rules
- Calculating the value of assets, including stocks and shares
- Preparing a detailed list of the property, money and possessions and debts in the estate
- Applying for a Grant of Probate
- Collecting money belonging to the estate from banks, insurance companies, pension funds and building societies
- Paying any outstanding taxes, including inheritance tax, and debts (out of the deceased person’s estate)
- Selling any assets owed
- Paying fees such as solicitors' fees and probate fees (out of the deceased person’s estate)
There are some other tasks that executors typically help with, but aren’t obliged to do, including:
- Arranging the funeral – executors don’t need to be involved with this, but given that they have access to the deceased person's financial accounts (and by proxy any funeral funds), it often makes sense for them to help out
- Informing people of the death – there is no legal requirement to tell people not named in the Will about a person's death, but some executors take it upon themselves to get in touch with those who were close to the person who died.
The only legal requirement for someone to be an executor is that they’re over 18 and both physically and mentally able to take on the task.
There’s no rule against your executor also being someone named as a beneficiary in your Will, so you don’t need to worry about finding someone impartial to be your executor.
The most important thing is to choose someone who you trust. Typically a family member or close friend is chosen as an executor.
Being an executor can be a difficult job, so before you choose an executor you should speak to them and make sure they're comfortable taking on the role.
If you can't find someone to be an executor, a professional executor can be appointed. Using a professional executor can be helpful if the estate is complicated.
If an executor hasn’t been named in a Will, a court will appoint one to fulfil the role.
When more than one executor is named, the executors must agree who will take on the role. Up to four executors can be named, and these executors sometimes choose to work together to complete the probate by dividing up the tasks.
If only one executor applies for probate, they must prove that they’ve tried to get in touch with all of the others to let them know the situation.
If you have been named as an executor but you don't want to or can't take it on, you have three options:
- You can give up their right to apply for probate (known as renunciation) which completely removes you from the process.
- You can reserve the right to apply for probate at a later date if another executor cannot be found or can’t finish their job.
- You can ask a lawyer to act on behalf of the executor.
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