September 16, 2021

The Role and Duties of an Executor

Rachel Shaw, solicitor specialising in contesting Wills and representing Executors in defending estates, discusses the role and duties of Executors.

The role of an executor

An executor has the legal responsibility for sorting the deceased’s finances and property, ensuring that any debts and taxes are paid and that the balance is distributed correctly to those entitled under any Will or in the absence of one, the rules governing intestacy.

Many people agree to take on the role of an executor without realising the degree of responsibility and detail involved in carrying out this office. It is imperative that the executor of a Will administers a deceased person’s estate in accordance with the Will and the law governing the estate's administration.

Whilst the terms of a Will can be changed after death, this can only be done if a beneficiary chooses to redirect all or part of their entitlement to a third party, and in this instance, a Deed of Variation would need to be signed by every beneficiary who is giving up any part of their entitlement under the terms of that Will.

The duties of an executor

The duties of an executor include, but are not limited to:

  • Locating and contacting beneficiaries
  • Identifying and collecting all of the Estate assets
  • Selling or transferring those assets
  • Valuing the Estate
  • Contacting creditors and settling any outstanding debts
  • Calculating and paying inheritance tax
  • Applying for the Grant of Probate
  • Preparing the Estate accounts
  • Distributing the Estate to the beneficiaries

If these duties are not carried out correctly and with diligence, an Executor can be found to be personally liable for their errors and a financial claim made against them individually by the affected party.

Therefore, it is imperative that when carrying out their role, that the Executor keeps a comprehensive record of all monies coming in and out of the Estate and has a bank account opened specifically for that purpose. Any transactions should be recorded and ultimately detailed in the Estate accounts.

It is also paramount that an Executor does not distribute the Estate unless they are absolutely confident that they have made correct calculations, for example with regard to the valuation of assets and those debts owed to the Estate, their expenditure and the decisions that they have made when administering the Estate.

Thus, before agreeing to undertake such a role, it is important that any prospective Executor obtains advice with regard to the nature and extent of their responsibilities. Here at Holmes & Hills we can provide expert advice as to the role of an executor as well as if in the unfortunate event you are acting as executor and find yourself faced with a claim as a consequence of your actions by a beneficiary.

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