I’ve Been Appointed as Executor of a Will: Where Do I Start?
Being appointed as executor can be overwhelming. Here's are the first steps you need to take...
If you have been appointed as the executor of someone’s Will, this means that when they pass away you will be taking responsibility for administering their estate in accordance with their Will.
When the person dies, you will be expected to begin your administrative duties immediately. This often involves quite a lot of work, which may go on for some time. Your duties as an executor can seem like a stressful and daunting task, and you may be wondering where to start.
Here is a summary of the initial duties that need to be carried out, to help you fulfil your role as executor…
Register the death and make copies of the death certificate
The first thing you need to do make sure the person’s death is registered and their doctor has been notified. It’s always advisable to order several copies of the death certificate when registering the death as copies are going to be needed by any asset holders. (These are companies that hold money or any items of value for the deceased – which could include their bank, insurance company and pension provider.)
Obtain the Will
Next you need to obtain the up-to-date, original version of the person’s Will.
(When a person dies without leaving a valid Will, their property will be shared out according to certain rules – known as the rules of intestacy.)
If there are other executors, they must confirm they are happy for you to have the Will. Also, you must make sure you have proof of your identity and a copy of the death certificate when obtaining the Will.
You’ll need to make copies of the Will for the beneficiaries and other executors, if applicable. If you did receive the original Will, store it in a safe place and do not alter it in any way.
Organise the funeral and inform friends and family
As the executor, you’ll be responsible for arranging the funeral of the deceased. Check the Will for any specific funeral wishes. They may have had a funeral plan – in which case, you should contact the provider straight away. You may be required to use a particular funeral director or funeral ‘package’. Similarly, they may have taken out an insurance policy that would pay for the funeral costs or a pension scheme that offers a lump sum towards funeral expenses.
The bank or building society of the deceased will normally be prepared to release funds to help with the expenses – assuming the estate has sufficient funds. You will need to take the funeral invoice to them, and you would then receive a cheque for the amount due, made payable to the funeral director. A copy of the death certificate, Will and your own proof of identity will be needed.
Inform family, friends and work colleagues of the details of the funeral, in case they want to attend.
Value the estate
You will need to get the deceased’s estate valued. Make sure you correspond with others, as well as collect and keep any financial records.
Go through everything that they owned at the time of their death – property, possessions and money. Take account of anything they owed – such as a loans and mortgages. Getting professional valuations for property, land and expensive personal items is recommended by HMRC.
In order to carry out your duties as executor, you will need to get a Grant of Probate. This gives you the legal right to deal with the deceased’s estate.
Probate is generally needed if the value of the estate is greater than £5,000.
Where it is less than £5,000 the bank / building society may make a payment without needing a Grant of Probate – but you will need to check with the particular bank / building society.
Where you do need to get Probate, you’ll need to complete all relevant forms, including form PA1 and any applicable Inheritance Tax (IHT) form. You should send the completed forms to the local probate registry.
Be sure to include the:
official copy of the death certificate
original Will, along with three copies
application fee of £215.
Upon receiving the Grant of Probate, make copies for any asset holders.
You should then draw up estate accounts for each beneficiary, accounting for all the assets collected, income accrued and bills paid.
You can deal with the Probate process all by yourself (as you can see here). However, many people prefer to get a professional to do it for them – to make things a bit easier and to ensure it is all done correctly.