When someone dies and they have made a properly constituted will, the will should name an executor or executors. Executors are usually close relatives or professionals such as solicitors or accountants – quite often there will be two executors, one a family member and the other a competent professional. If you are named as an executor but you do not want to fulfil that role, or for some reason you are unable to, you can elect to turn down the position.
The executor is the person who is responsible for getting probate on the deceased person’s estate and for ensuring that any inheritance tax due to HMRC is paid. The executor can be a beneficiary of the estate.
Many people employ the services of a professional to help them in dealing with the Probate Registry office and HMRC, especially if the affairs of the estate are complex or if the estate has a high value.
To get probate, the executor must fill in an application form, PA1, which is available to download online from the gov.uk website. The form is fairly simple and is returned to the local Probate Registry office. Perhaps the most complex part of the form is the declaration of the value of the estate which must be calculated carefully and is a figure which must also be submitted to HMRC so that they can calculate any inheritance tax which may be due.
Once the Probate Registry has the form, they will invite the executor to the local office for an interview. The interview allows the executor to ask any questions they may have. The executor must also swear on oath that the information that they have given in the probate application form is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge.
As we’ve said, calculating the value of an estate can be a fairly complex business and for an estate of any value it is best to employ the services of professionals to ensure that valuations are realistic. The first step to getting a valuation is to calculate the value of all the assets belonging to the estate of the deceased person. These may include a home, vehicles and other personal possessions. HMRC advise that you should get any item with a value of more than £500 professionally valued.
The second step is to calculate all of the estate’s liabilities which will include all outstanding debts such as bank loans, utility bills and credit card balances. You then subtract the liabilities from the assets in order to reach the figure that will be reported to the Probate Registry and to HMRC.
Once the executor has obtained probate and settled the tax affairs with HMRC, the final duty is to ensure that any inheritances are passed on to the beneficiaries named in the will.