What does an executor do?

An executor is the person who has responsibility for dealing with a deceased person’s estate. A properly written will should name an executor who will most often be a close family member, although sometimes two executors may be named with one being a close relative and the other being a professional such as a solicitor or accountant. When there is no will or no executor is named, an administrator, again often a close family member will be appointed and he or she will have the same responsibilities as an executor.

The executor is responsible for getting probate from the nearest Probate Registry Office. Probate may not be needed if an estate’s total value is less than £5,000, in which case the executor can use the death certificate to deal with bodies such as banks, building societies and utility companies.

When the estate is worth more than £5,000 the executor must fill in an application form to obtain a Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry. They must also fill out a form to go to HMRC so that they can decide if any inheritance tax is due from the estate. The application to the Probate Registry should also include a cheque for £215 to pay the probate fee.

The threshold for inheritance tax is £325,000 so the vast majority of estates do not need to pay inheritance tax. However, the forms must be returned to HMRC even if you believe that no payment of inheritance tax will be required.

Once the executor has returned the completed application for Grant of Representation, they will then be invited to the local Probate Registry office for an interview. The purpose of the interview is to allow staff to check that all the facts you have given are accurate and it is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about the probate process.

You will be asked to swear an oath on the religious book of your choice, or if you do not have religious beliefs, to make an affirmation that the information in the application form is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.

After the interview at the Probate Registry office, you will be sent the Grant of Representation which will give you the legal authority to deal with all the financial affairs of the estate and to distribute any inheritances to beneficiaries named in the will.

Although you can go through the whole probate process as an individual executor, many people choose to engage the services of a solicitor to help them through what can be quite a testing and time-consuming procedure. If you decide to do this, you should ascertain from the start exactly what the solicitor will charge for his or her services.

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