When someone writes a will, it is normal although not compulsory to name an executor. In fact, more than one executor can be nominated and many people choose to name two, one of whom will be a close relative while the other will be a professional such as a solicitor or accountant. The executor of the will may also be a beneficiary but even if you are named as an executor in someone’s will you are not compelled to act in that capacity. Anyone who has acted as a witness to the will is excluded from acting as an executor.
If the deceased’s estate has a value of less than £5,000, then you will not in most cases have to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation or probate as it is commonly called. However, if the estate has a value of more than £5,000 you must do so.
Many people choose to employ a solicitor to deal with probate, but in fact it is perfectly possible in many cases for the executor to do this independently. In cases where the estate is large and complex it will usually be advisable to seek the help of a solicitor or accountant who is qualified to deal with these matters.
If you decide to apply for probate yourself as an executor, you need to obtain the probate application form. You can download this from the Government website online or obtain one from your local Probate Registry Office. Once you’ve returned the form, you will be asked to attend the office in person for an interview. This is to ascertain that everything you’ve included in the form is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge and you will be asked to swear an oath to this effect.
Once you have obtained probate, you will then have the legal authority to undertake all the actions required to administer the deceased’s estate. Your responsibilities will include collecting any money due to the estate, paying any debts owed by the estate and distributing any inheritances to the estate’s beneficiaries. You will also be responsible for making a tax declaration with regard to the estate to HMRC and for paying any taxes that fall due.
If an estate is worth less than £5,000 then you can in most cases perform your duties as an executor by simply presenting the death certificate to the relevant authorities. The death certificate is obtained from the Registry Office and it is wise to pay for several copies as banks, utilities and other bodies will not accept simple photocopies of the certificate.