When someone dies and has left a valid will, the will should include the name of an executor, often but not always a close family member. The role can also be taken on by a solicitor or a suitably qualified member of staff at a bank or building society. The executor must be over 18 and they can be named in the will as a beneficiary. It’s also possible to name two executors and some people choose to name a family member and a professional person. Someone named as an executor in a will has the right to decline the position.
The executor has the responsibility to get probate on the deceased’s estate. This is done by applying to the Probate Registry by filling in a probate application and sending to the nearest Probate Registry office. Once the executor has done that, he or she will have to swear an oath to affirm that everything in the form is accurate and truthful to the best of their knowledge.
Once the executor has received probate, they are then responsible for making sure the will’s beneficiaries receive their share. Where there is property that needs to be sold, they are responsible for the sale.
The executor is also responsible for ensuring that any inheritance tax due is paid, although this obviously will not apply to all estates, depending on their value. The first task is to work out the value of the estate by identifying all the assets and all the debts and subtracting the latter from the former to give a net figure. The funeral costs can also be set against the asset value of the estate.
The assets will include cash in bank or building society accounts, stocks and shares, personal possessions like cars, jewellery, furniture and art works, and any property. You should get a professional valuation for any item that you believe is worth in excess of £500.
If the estate is worth less than a total of £325,000, then there will not be any inheritance tax to pay. If there is inheritance tax due, you need to start making payments by the end of the sixth month after the date of the death.
For small estates worth less than £5,000, the executor’s duties are less onerous as most official bodies and organisations like banks and building societies will accept a copy of the death certificate. You will be able to access monies and cancel utility bills with the death certificate. The death certificate copies must be issued by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages office – photocopies are not acceptable. You can ask for copies from the registrar when you get the original death certificate.