10 November, 2008
An executor is someone named in a Will to deal with sorting out a person's affairs after they have died. If more than one executor is named then they can choose whether to do the job together or for one or more of them to sort out the affairs.
An executor's authority comes from the Will but it is often necessary for the executor to get a Grant of Probate to be able to close bank accounts or to sell a property or shares. A Grant of Probate is a document from the court which proves that the executors are the right people to be dealing with the assets. You can apply for a Grant of Probate either through a solicitor or directly through the Court.
The executor's duties include arranging the burial/cremation (if not done by family); getting information about assets and financial affairs; sorting out tax affairs, completing an Inheritance Tax Account if needed; paying any Inheritance tax due within six months (otherwise interest becomes payable); getting a Grant of Probate; collecting in the assets and money due to the estate; and paying the funeral bill, bills owed by the deceased and any other expenses incurred in sorting out the affairs - these are paid out of the deceased's money and assets, not by the executors personally.
The executors must follow the wishes set out by the deceased in their Will, including paying any legacies, arranging for any specific items gifted to be delivered to the right beneficiary and dividing the estate between the named beneficiaries. Sometimes a Will creates a trust and the executors may be required to act as trustees.
The executors have a duty to account to the beneficiaries for how the deceased's assets have been dealt with. The executors will also have to account to HM Revenue for any income or gains that they make whilst sorting out the deceased's affairs.
The job of an executor can be complicated, particularly if there are a lot of high value assets and you need to pay tax. Often executors will instruct solicitors to deal with the estate. The cost of employing a solicitor would be paid out of the deceased's money and assets and not by the executors personally.