If you are appointed an Executor, you are probably wondering what your duties are.
Executors are responsible for the legal process of administering the deceased person’s estate. This process is called probate.
As expert probate solicitors, we know that it can be frustrating for Executors to deal with the complexities of the UK probate system, which can be a difficult process.
To make things a little easier, in this blog we will go through what ‘administering an estate’ really means, what your responsibilities, duties, and powers are as an Executor – and how we can help, if you need it.
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What are the responsibilities and duties of the Executor of a Will?
As an Executor of a Will you are responsible for applying for the Grant of Probate, establishing the nature and value of the assets and any liabilities, considering the terms of the Will and distributing the assets as the Will instructs, submitting detailed information to HM Revenue and Customs and reporting any changes in value to assets, dealing with Income Tax, preparing accounts for the estate, and considering the deceased’s domicile at the time of death.
So what does this all mean?
Obtaining the Grant of Probate
A Grant of Probate gives Executors of the Will authority to handle the estate. When someone dies without a Will, the people given authority to deal with the estate are instead called Administrators, and instead of a Grant of Probate, they need a Grant of Letters of Administration.
If there is a mistake with your application, however small, the Probate Registry will query it, delaying your application and preventing you from accessing bank accounts and carrying out other essential tasks. This can be very distressing. Our expert probate solicitors will complete the application correctly and push for a quick turnaround.
Establishing the nature and value of the assets
This means fully understanding how many assets there are, where they are, and what they are; for example property, savings, or valuables. You need to be certain that you have taken everything into account and that everything has been valued correctly. There are penalties for submitting incorrect information to HMRC.
Liabilities are any debts or money owed by the person who has died. You must consider any bills and debts that need to be paid out of the estate. If you do not settle these debts before you pay money from the estate out to beneficiaries, you might be responsible for paying the debts yourself, so it is vital you have a firm grip of what needs to be settled.
Considering the deceased’s domicile at time of death and any overseas assets
If the person who died lived abroad, was born and had lived in another country, or owned assets such as property abroad, you must consider the deceased’s domicile, which is a legal term that is not the same as tax or other residence.
You may need to deal with foreign laws and taxes to manage the person’s overseas assets. Different countries have different rules around inheritance, property, and tax. Our expert probate team are used to dealing with overseas estates and have managed very complicated probate cases across multiple countries. If you need our help with an overseas estate, speak to us now.
Considering the terms of the Will
When someone dies and leaves a Will, it is up to the Executor(s) to ensure that the wishes outlined in the Will are carried out. It will be up to you to arrange the sale or auction of valuables and to divide assets, including any property, as the deceased wished. As specialists in both probate and conveyancing, we help our clients with all aspects of probate, including selling any property, which can be a relief to our clients. We have connections with trusted auctioneers, valuers, and estate agents, and can help you value and sell off any assets.
Sometimes the terms of the Will may cause problems. The Will may be out of date and not include recent family members such as grandchildren, or the inheritance may cause tax issues for a beneficiary. In certain cases, you may be able to change a Will after death. Our experts can read over the deceased’s Will and advise you on any problems that a Will might cause. If the Will can and should be varied, we can create a Deed of Variation.
Distribute assets to the beneficiaries
Executors must collect and distribute assets to the beneficiaries as the Will has stated. This involves gathering information on all of the beneficiaries, contacting them, getting bank details, and distributing their inheritance to them. From experience, this can get quite complicated depending on how many beneficiaries there are and where they are.
It can also get heated, with beneficiaries demanding to know where their inheritance is while you are dealing with the sale of property, tax returns, debt payment, and many other aspects of the probate. Many of our clients choose to save time and stress – and keep their relationships with beneficiaries intact – by instructing us to collect and distribute assets to beneficiaries.
Preparing and submitting detailed account of the assets for tax returns
In addition to valuing and selling assets and dealing with any property, Executors are responsible for submitting the Inheritance Tax Return and Estate Income Tax Return to HMRC. If you make a mistake on your returns you will be accountable to HMRC and will be liable to penalties.
Many estates have unexpected complications around valuing assets. It is important to ask yourself if you would know what to do if a house in the estate sold for more than the value at death, or if the values of shares changed. There are detailed rules, allowances, revenue and statutory concessions, all of which need to be considered if the estate is to avoid paying more tax than necessary.
Managing the risk
Not only will you face penalties from HMRC if you submit incorrect information, but for every query the Land Registry or Probate Registry make about property and probate application matters, your applications will be pushed to the back of the queue each time, essentially starting from square one.
If you choose to take on the probate without the help of an expert probate solicitor, you must be sure that you are familiar enough with these processes that you will definitely not make a mistake, and that you are happy to deal with the stress of these complicated matters to go on for 12 months and sometimes longer.
Our clients decide it’s easier, cheaper, more professional and quicker to employ us to do the work for them. We can help take the weight off your shoulders, whether this involves assisting you with specific tasks or taking over the whole case.
One legal service doesn’t fit all – every family and client is unique. Because of that, we tailor our services to what fits you best.
You might want to clear the property, deal with utility bills, and distribute items that have been left to individual beneficiaries. Alternatively, you may find yourself in a position where you need a more hands-on approach from us. We will work with you to achieve the best solution.
Get the support that you need as an Executor
With over 125 years’ experience working for generations of families, we have an expert understanding of the things you need to do when someone dies, and the support that our clients need. When you call our office, you will speak to our understanding and supportive team, who will listen to your unique circumstances, and then advise you on the next best steps. Call us on 01273 604 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.