I was recently asked whether it is an honour or a horror to be appointed as an executor in a Will. Being given such an important role to play in aftermath of someone's death can be quite an honour as it is clear that person trusts you to handle their estate according to their wishes. However many people are quick to agree to it without fully understanding what is expected of them. Honour can soon be replaced with a feeling of horror when you realise that there is much more to the job than simply distributing assets to beneficiaries. If you are a lay executor, that being someone without the professional qualifications and/or relevant knowledge, it can be difficult to navigate through the various duties imposed upon you.
What are the duties?
This list is not exhaustive but it gives you an indication of what is expected from an executor:
1. Secure all assets of the deceased. This includes ensuring doors/ windows of any properties are locked, car keys are safe etc.
2. Insuring assets e.g. home insurance
3. Arranging the funeral (although this is usually done by family)
4. Locating the Will and applying for probate
5. Completing HMRC Inheritance Tax forms (even when IHT is not payable)
6. Pay outstanding debts of the deceased
7. Notify relevant companies of the death e.g. banks/ building societies, pension providers
8. Distribute the estate to beneficiaries
9. Deal with any claims made against the estate
10. Preparing estate accounts
It is important to note that as an executor you are legally responsible for the full value of the estate and must distribute it in accordance with the Will and the law!
You are not in it alone
Following a bereavement there are many things to consider, but the responsibility of being an executor can begin to feel a burden. Whilst grieving for their loved ones, many lay executors do not fully carry out their duties and this could be due to a lack of awareness of what their role involves. This can create further problems in the future, particularly if will trusts have not been set up or estate accounts not kept.
But there is some good news- you are not in it alone. As an executor, you have the power to appoint a professional to act on your behalf, take over your duties and deal with probate.
Why appoint a professional executor?
1. Expertise. professional executor will have the knowledge and expertise to handle the deceased's affairs.
2. Peace of mind. Lay executors and beneficiaries can rest assured that the estate will be administered correctly
3. Availability. There will always be someone available to act which cannot be guaranteed when lay executors are appointed.
4. Complex estates. High value estates or those with many different assets (e.g. properties, shares, savings etc) can often become complex and difficult to manage. The Will may contain a trust which needs to be set up and it is important that this is done right
5. Impartiality. A professional executor will carry out their role free from bias or personal views.
If you would like more information on the role of executors or how to appoint a professional then contact us here or call 01642 968707. http://www.dswills.uk